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'' >' ', 

Ffdln ^^^'l^•^^][l > 

■ l'"^f hi I LiiJiThtHrtl 4 V'Dd'-rWiwjit 

From a recent photograph 










COPyiKmT, 1907 AMD 19^, 



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4 ' « 


In the preparation of this book the author has 
received, and here acknowledges, the invaluable co- 
operation of many persons who knew Mr. Edison 
in his younger days, and who cheerfully placed at 
his service the result of their acquaintance and asso- 
ciation with the inventor. To the American Press 
generally the writer is indebted for much valued 
assistance, and especially grateful does he feel towards 
the following : to the Editor of the Electrical Review 
for permission to incorporate Edison's own account 
of the circumstances under which he erected the first 
power-house for the distribution of the electric light ; 
to Mr. W. K. L. Dickson, the consulting electrician ; 
to Mr. J. R. Randolph, private secretary to Mr. Edi- 
son, Mr. Frank L. Dyer, chief of the Legal Depart- 
ment, and the late Dr. Wangemann, phonographic 
expert, for much interesting "inside" information; 
and also to the Gassier Magazine Company, holders 
of the copyright, for courteous permission to use cer- 
tain pictures and to quote from Dickson's " Life of 
Edison," now out of print. 

To the inventor himself the writer is grateful for 
all the time he spent away from his experimental 
laboratory to give, with his customary cheerfulness 
and good-nature, much of the personal history which 
is here recorded. To Mrs. Edison acknowledgment 
should be made for the loan of various portraits of 
her distinguished husband taken in his younger days ; 


for a copy of the paper (the only one believed to be 
in existence) which Edison printed and published on 
the train at the age of fourteen; and for a lecture 
Written by Mr. Edison many years ago recounting 
the results of experiments made in connection with 
platinum wire during his invention of the incandes- 
cent electric light 

This book is in no sense an exhaustive " Life " of 
Edison, and, indeed, could not be, seeing that the 
inventor is still young in heart and enthusiasm, and 
that there are probably many years of ' his brilliant 
career still to run. His grandfather and great-grand- 
father lived to be centenarians, and their noted de- 
scendant gives every indication of coiping into healthy 
competition with them in the matter of a long life. 
And although Mr. Edison avers that he has "quit 
the inventing business" and is now devoting himself 
almost exclusively to pure science, there is every 
reason to hope that by his investigations many scien- 
tific problems will yet be solved, and that some of 
the secrets which Nature still holds will be revealed 

through him. 




I. Birthplace and Early Life . • . . i 

II. Boyhood and Youth lo 

III. News Agent and Telegrapher • . .29 

IV. In Search of Employment .... 38 
V. His First Workshop 48 

VI. Early Telegraphic Inventions ... 61 

VII. The Telephone 71 

VIII. The Electric Light 94 

IX. Experiments with Platinum Wire . . 126 

X. The Phonograph 134 

XL The Kinetoscope, Magnetic Ore Sepa- 

RATOR9 AND Other Inventions . • .165 

XII. Some Lesser Inventions 176 

XIII. War Machines 192 

XIV. Electrocution 203 

XV. The Storage Battery 213 

XVI. The Laboratory at Orange . • . .221 

XVII. Notion Books 249 

XVIII. Banquets 254 

XIX. In Europe ...••••. 267 

XX. Home Life 279 




XXL His Personality . . . . . . 290 

XXII. Photographing the Wizard .... 313 

XXIII. Some Anecdotes 317 

XXIV. His Opinions 334 

Index 351 


Thomas Alva Edison Frontispiece 


Edison's Birthplace, Milan, Ohio .... 4 
Edison at the Age of Four .... 

Edison when a Newsboy on the Grand Trunk 
Edison's Railway Newspaper, <<The Grand Trunk 

Weekly Herald" 

Edison at the Age op Nineteen 

Edison at Forty 

Edison's First Invention, the Vote Recorder 

Edison's Universal Stock Printer . 

Edison at the Age of Twenty-four . 

Edison at the Age of Twenty-eight 

Motograph Receiving and Transmitting Telephone 80 

Edison's First Incandescent Lamp 

Edison Dynamo of 1880 

Edison driving his First Electric Locomotive 
Edison's First Sketch of the Phonograph 
Edison's Original Tin-foil Phonograph . 
Edison listening to a Phonographic Record . 
Testing a Phonographic Record in the Experi- 
mental Room 

The Edison Band making a Phonographic Record 
KiNEToscoPE Record of Carmencita's Dance . 
Edison Magnetic Ore Separator 
Edison experimenting in his Private Laboratory 
Edison replying to Some Puzzling Questions . 









Charging an Edison Storage Battery in the Garage 

attached to the laboratory .... 214 
Library at the Edison Laboratory, Orange, NJ. 222 
Edison in his Chemical Laboratory, Orange, N.J. 228 
Legal Department, Edison Laboratory, Orange, 

NJ 234 

Edison examining a Statement rendered by One 

OF his Workpeople 252 

Edison's "Den," in his Home at Llewellyn Park, 

NJ 28a 

Mr. and Mrs. Edison and Family on the Porch of 

their Home at Llewellyn Park, N J. . . 290 
Mr. and Mrs. Edison in the Chemical Laboratory 316 





It was a cold day in February, 1847, and the little 
town of Milan, Ohio, was noisy with the rumble of 
farm wagons carrying wheat to the canal fdr shipment 
to Lake Erie; the wharf was crowded with farmers, 
shippers, laborers, and idlers, all gathered together 
to assist or retard the weighing and loading of the grain ; 
everywhere appeared bustle and movement save, per- 
haps, in the Edison homestead, where the advent of a 
new life was awaited. 

The Edison home was built on elevated ground, and 
from the windows an excellent view of the canal and 
the Huron River could be obtained. Mr. Samuel Edi- 
son was not down on the wharf — where every other 
male member of the community appeared to have as- 
sembled — having preferred to remain indoors until the 
birth of his child was safely accomplished. He was a // 
tall man, over six feet in height, somewhat thin though 
indicating giant strength. His bearded face was full of 
resolution tempered with good-nature, while the eyes were 
kindly. As he stood looking on the busy scene below 
he little thought that the event he was awaiting was one 
which would have a direct bearing on future generations. 

Presently the nurse who had been looking after Mrs. 
Edison — a good-hearted neighbor — entered the room 
and informed Mr. Edison that he was the father of a 
fine, sturdy boy. " A pretty child," said the nurse, " fair, 


ith gray eyes — the very image of his mother." Mr. 
Edison received the news philosophically, and a little 
later, when allowed to see the child, he regarded it with 
great interest. vXThe boy certainly was like his mother, 
that was a fact, and the father expressed his pleasure at 
the resemblance, and remarked that if he grew like her 
in disposition as well as feature then he would indeed 
prove a blessing to them.l/His mother adored him from 
the moment he was placed in her arms, and there was 
from the first an affection between them which increased 
as the child grew. 

Samuel Edison had emigrated to Milan in 1838, hav- 
ing fied thither from Canada, where he had fallen into 
disgrace through taking too active a part in the Papineau 
Rebellion. He owned land in the Dominion which he 
had received as a gift from the British Government, and 
when it became known that he also was among the rebels 
the grant was forfeited, and Mr. Samuel Edison found 
it wise to make hasty tracks for the St. Clair River. In 
his flight from Canadian territory he w^lj^ one him- 
dred and eighty-two miles without sleep, for his powers 
of endurance were no less remarkable than those which 
afterwards characterized his son. 

On reaching Milan, Samuel Edison found that it was 
a town which would serve him well as a retreat, and he 
thereupon decided to adopt it as his future place of resi- 
dence, eschew rebellions, and live in harmony both with 
Government and neighbor. A few years later he mar- 
ried a pretty school teacher named Nancy Elliot, whom 
he had known in his Canadian days, rented the small 
house already mentioned, busied himself in various enter- 
prises, and settled down to a peaceful, industrious, and 
contented life. He had seen Milan in her prosperous 
days, but the time was coming when she would rank 
no higher than a pretty suburban village, and the vari- 


ous vicissitudes through which the town passed are, 
perhaps, best described in a letter written a short time 
since by a resident. 

"Seventy years ago," says this correspondent, "be- 
fore the raihroads had penetrated the Western Reserve, 
it became necessary to establish an outlet for the great 
amoimt of grain requiring shipment to Eastern ports 
from Central and Northern Ohio. The Huron' River, 
emptying into Lake Erie, was navigable only a few miles 
from its mouth, and so a landing was chosen about three 
miles below the beautiful village of Milan, then in its 
infancy. Warehouses for the storage of grain were 
built tiiere, and vessels came up the river from Huron 
to receive their cargoes. The business proved so profit- 
able that in a short time a few capitalists conceived the 
idea of digging a canal from 'Lockwood Landing' to 
Milan, thus bringing navigation to their village. 

"The project was carried out, and soon Milan be- 
came a prosperous grain market. A dozen warehouses 
were built on the bank of the canal, and my earliest 
recollections are associated with the wagon-loads of grain 
in bags standing in front of my father's warehouse, hav- 
ing been drawn by oxen or horses from aU sections of the 
surrounding coimtry; and in the busy season the line 
would extend from one to two miles out on the main 
road, each awaiting its turn for the slow process of load- 
ing and weighing the grain. 

"It was a glorious prospect for Milan. Shipbuild- 
ing soon became a prominent industry, and many fine 
vessels, including six revenue cutters, were launched in 
the waters of the canal. The village now had a thriving 
population of independent, refined people. A Presby- 
terian church was established with a ^ Huron Institute' 
as an outgrowth which became famous through all sec- 
tions of the State. Other churches were organized and 


houses of worship erected — Episcopal, Methodist, and, 
some years later, Roman Catholic. Graded schools 
were established, and in every direction the progress 
was marked. 

''But, alas for Milan's brilliant future! An enter- 
prising railroad made overtures to pass through the 
village, but the canal capitalists could see no avenue 
leading to prosperity more swiftly than the ditch they 
had dug, and they awoke one day to the knowledge that 
Norwalk and Wakeman had cut them off from railroad 
communication, and their trade soon became as stag- 
nant as the waters of their beloved canal. Oh, the bitter 
irony of fate that one should be bom in their village who 
was destined to create an entire revolution in the mode 
of rapid transit, that a child bom in a house on a bluff 
overlooking the canal should be endowed with wonder- 
ful perceptions of chained lightning ! 

''And soon the exodus of our business men to other 
States began. You will find throughout the Union 
to-day men of ability, prominent in professional and 
commercial circles,- who once claimed Milan as their 
home. The old 'Huron Institute' was converted into 
the 'Western Reserve Normal School,' and proved a 
noted and beloved resort of leaming for hundreds of 
teachers now scattered throughout the length and 
breadth of the land, and the old brick building still 
stands, a monument of pleasant memories. 

"If you would view the birthplace of Edison to-day, 
take passage on the electric raflway from Norwalk to 
Sandusky, and you will be borne swiftly along through 
a section of rich farm lands and a beautiful hilly 
country that presents a succession of picturesque 
scenery, especially along the banks of the Huron 
River. At Milan you can leave the car and wander 
at will through the little village nestling among the 







hills. There are few attractions for the stranger. 
The old-time Sabbath-like stillness pervades the air, 
broken only at stated times when the echo of the loco- 
motive wheels from two railroads soimds over the hills. 

" There is a public square in the centre of the business 
portion of the town surrounding a handsome monu- 
ment erected to the memory of the volimteers from that 
vicinity who enlisted in the Fifty-fifth and Sixty-seventh 
O.V.I. There are green-shaded trees, comfortable 
homes, some fine residences, and a cultured Law-and- 
Gospel-loving community; and there is a cemetery, 
so tastefully inviting that people who ever lived in 
Milan ask to be taken back there for their last abiding 
rest. You will not find any canal, but perhaps the oldest 
inhabitant can point out to you a slight depression in 
the groimd which might be traced for a few miles as 
the bed of the old channel, now mostly under cultivation 
as vegetable gardens." 

And here it was, when Milan revelled in her pros- 
perity, that Thomas Alva Edison was bom and passed 
the first seven years of his life. In infancy he was 
what mothers and nurses would call a "good" child, 
for he seldom cried, and his temper, from the moment 
when he could distinguish between pleasure and pain, 
was an angelic one. He is said to have cracked jokes 
when a baby, and from the time when he began to 
"take notice" he was quite conscious of the humoroiis 
side of a situation. This characteristic he probably 
inherited from his father, who, like Lincoln, enjoyed a 
good story. The serious side of his nature came from^ 
his mother, not so much as an inheritance perhaps, 
but because during his early years he was constantly 
with her. To him his mother was something more than 
a fond parent, and his love for her was of that super- 
lative quality which ever remained one of the strongest 


attributes of his nature. Many years later — long after 
her death, when fame and fortune had come to him — 
interviewers would ask the inventor to tell them some- 
thing about his mother. But her loss had been so great 
a grief to him that he never could speak of her to stran- 
gers — only to those who had known her and appre- 
ciated her goodness, and who could realize a fraction 
of all that she had been to him. Once, however, he 
broke down this reserve, and to a writer in the New 
York World he spoke of her in words which indicated 
something of the strength of those ties which had 
bound them together. 

"I did not have my mother very long," he said on 
this occasion, ''but in that length of time she cast over 
n^ an influence which has lasted all my life. The 
^ood effects of her early training I can never lose. 
/If it had not been for her appreciation and her faith 
in me at a critical time in my experience, I should very 
likely never have become an inventor. You see, my 
mother was a Canadian girl who used to teach school 
in Nova Scotia. She believed that many of the boys 
who turned out badly by the time they grew to manhood 
would have become valuable citizens if they had been 
handled in the right way when they were young. Her 
years of experience as a school teacher taught her many 
things about human nature, and especially about boys. 
After she married my father and became a mother, ^e 
applied that same theory to me. 

"I was always a careless boy, and with a mother of 
different mental caliber I should have probably turned 
out badly. But her firmness, her sweetness, her good- 
ness, were potent powers' to keep me in the right path. 
I remember I used never to be able to get along at school. 
I don't know now what it was, but I was always at the 
foot of the class. I used to feel that the teachers never) 


sympathized with me and that my father thought that ' 
Twas stupid, and at last I almost decided that I must 
really be a dunce. My mother was always kind, always 
sympathetic, and she never misunderstood orVqiis- 
judged me. But I was afraid to tell her all my diffi- 
culties at school, for fear she too might lose her con- 
fidence in me. 

" One day I overheard the teacher tell the inspector 
that I was 'addled' and it would not be worth while 
keeping me in school any longer. I was so hurt by 
this last straw that I burst out crying and went home 
and told my mother about it. Then I foimd out what 
a good thing a good mother was. She came 01^ as my 
strong defender. Mother love was aroused, mother 
pride wounded to the quick. She brought me back to 
the school and angrily told the teacher that he didn't 
know what he was talking about, that I had more 
brains than he himself, and a lot more talk like that. 
In fact, she was the most enthusiastic champion a boy 
/ ever had, and I determined right then that I would be : 
I worthy of her and show her that her confidence was not 
"^misplaced. My mother was the making of me. She 
was so true, so sure of me ; and I felt that I had some 
one to live for, some one I must not disappoint. The f 
memory of her will always be a blessing to me." ^ 

When "Al," as his mother always called him, 
emerged from baby clothes and was able to walk and 
talk, neighbors soon made the discovery that he was 
rather a remarkable-looking child. He had a fine, 
large, well-shaped head, of which his mother was very 
proud. But his hair was a terrible trial to her. It 
would not curl, it would not part, it would not lie 
down like other boys'. He was always rumpling it 
with his baby fingers, and so the only thing to be done 
was to keep it "close," a plan which was advocated 


by his father and adopted, after a mental struggle, by 
his mother. He had a broad, smooth forehead, deep- 
set eyes, almost straight brows, and the sweetest, most 
amiable, and lovable mouth ever seen in a baby. His 
high forehead was usually unruffled and serene, except 
when he asked those innumerable questions which came 
to his lips almost as soon as he could talk. Being 
greatly puzzled over any matter in which he happened 
to take an especial interest, he would scowl a little. 
"When this occurred," writes some one who knew 
him when a child, "his lips went tight together, his 
brows contracted, and as he got busy with his infant 
schemes he would go fast and with a walk that showed 
all kinds of determination." 

At four years of age. he was friendly with all the 
neighboring children — especially boys — and every 
one liked him. He was ready to take part in any 
escapade suggested, and when his mother's back was 
turned for a moment he would slip out of the house, 
take a short cut to the canal by scrambling down the 
bluff, and a few minutes later his anxious parent would 
detect him from one of the windows running along the 
tow-path as fast as his sturdy legs would carry him. 
From there he would make his way to the shipbuilding 
yards, pick up and examine every tool he could find, 
ask a hundred questions of the busy workmen, get 
imder their feet and in their path, and bother them 
generally. But they liked him nevertheless; though 
with that lack of instinct which is sometimes so hard to 
understand they often thought his questions foolish, 
and, as a consequence, the boy anything but bright. 
Even his father, forty years later, said that many folk 
considered he was a little lacking in ordinary intelli- 
gence, probably because they could not always give him 
satisfactory replies to the puzzling questions which he 


put to them. He was forever asking his father the^ 
reason for this and that, and when, in very desperation 
and thinking frankness the better policy, the unhappy 
parent would answer, "I don't know," the boy would 
reduce him to still deeper depths of distraction by 
instantly demanding, "Why don't you know?" 

There are many people in Milan to-day who re- 
member little Al Edison, and they will tell you how on 
one occasion he chased the old goose off her nest and 
tried to hatch out the eggs himself by sitting on them, 
just to satisfy a natural desire to know how it was done. 
A little later on he evinced his first interest in avian 
flight by endeavoring to persuade the "hired girl" 
to swallow some fearful concoction, with the promise 
that if she did so she would certainly be able to fly. 
The yoimg woman firmly declined to try the experiment, 
but Al, who in all probability thoroughly believed what 
he had undoubtedly been told, was so persistent in his 
entreaties that she would try even a little, that at last 
she swallowed a* small dose, and immediately became 
so ill that the doctor had to be summoned. The boy 
expressed regret that she was sick, but appeared to 
think that her inability to fly lay with herseU and not 
with the liquid. 



When A1 was seven years of age his father decided 
that the time had come when it would be wise to leave 
Milan. Even at that period the town had begun to 
lose prestige and work of every kind commenced to 
suffer in consequence. Mr. Edison was a man who 
believed in having an eye to the future, and the reduction 
of tariff on the canal having already started, owing to 
the construction of the Lake Shore Railroad, he foresaw 
that the end of Milan as a commercial centre was in 
sight. He had many consultations with his wife regard- 
ing the advisability of moving, and she, sensible woman 
that she was, stifled the longing to remain in their pretty, 
peaceful home, and declared her readiness, to make any 
change that might result in advantage to the family. 

Discussions regarding the best place to settle in were 
many, and at last it was decided to begin life anew in 
Port Huron, Michigan, a prosperous town whose chief 
characteristics were bustle and enterprise. Thither 
Mr. Edison made several trips in advance, inspected 
many homes which he thought might prove suitable 
for him and his small family, and eventually chose one 
which was large and comfortable, a fine, roomy house 
located in the centre of an extensive grove containing 
several apple and pear trees. It was, in fact, one of the 
best residences in the locality, situated amid country 
surroundings, yet within easy distance of the town. 














Here the famSy arrival one evening in the fall of 1854, 
and were soon comfortably installed in their new home. 

Their residence in Port Huron proved no less happy 
than the years they had spent in Milan. Al, now a 
sturdy boy " going on eight," was the same cheerful little ^ 
lad he had been in the Ohio, home, good-tempered, fond w^ 
of fim, and as sharp as a needle; just as curious re- 
garding the meaning of everything and rather more 
determined than before to strip his relations and friends 
of all the knowledge they possessed. He was as pas- 
sionately devoted to his mother as in the Milan days, 
and there was also a link of affection forging between 
him and his father which no years of separation were 
to sever. 

Al received all his instruction from his mother, 
with the exception of about three months when he went 
to the Huron Public School and left on accoimt of the 
incident already narrated. Mrs. Edison was very 
fond of children even if they were not her own, and 
soon the little ones who passed the house every morning 
on their way to school began to look upon her as a 
friend. One of these very children — now a woman 
of sixty-five — whose acquaintance with the Edison 
family began in these early days, recently said: 

"I well remember the old homestead, surrounded by 
the orchard, and frequently saw Mrs. Edison and her 
son sitting on the porch reading or conversing. Some- 
times I noticed that she was instructing him in his 
lessons and I often wondered why he never went to 
school. I remember how much alike I thought them / 
at the time. The boy was essentially his mother's \y^ 
son, every characteristic and every feature were hers, 
and I think now that it is to her that he is indebted for 
his genius. He had the same deep-set eyes, the smooth, 
broad brow, and the strong chin. Their mouths were 


very similar and each had the same kindly and, at 
time^, humorous smile hovering about the lips. Mrs. 
Edison loved every child in the neighborhood and used 

f meet us at the gate as we passed on our way to school 
irith her hands full of apples, doughnuts, and other 
goodies that she knew we liked." 

Mr. Edison had not been many months in the new 
house before he conceived the idea that it might be 
improved by the addition of an observatory, and, 
\ylliSng a handy man and able to carry out most plans 
^^ which his brain suggested, he started to erect a tower 
from designs which he had himself drawn up. It was 
built behind the house, was about eighty feet high, 
and commanded a glorious view over the broad river 
and the distant hills. This observatory became so pop- 
ular that the builder decided to make a small charge 
to strangers who desired to view the surrounding 
coimtry from its summit, and in a neat handbill an- 
nounced that only on payment of the modest sum of 
ten cents might the prospect of Lake Huron and the 
St. Clair River be enjoyed from the Edison Tower. 

The investment, however, did not prove a very 
profitable one, for people soon discovered that the ten 
cents somewhat detracted from the beauty of the 
scenery, and the tower was left to the sole enjoyment 
of Mr. Edison and his family. But apart from the 
charge it is just possible that visitors found the ascent 
of the observatory a little too much for their nerves. 
The structure was not a very substantial one, and 
when the wind was fresh it certainly rocked a good 
deal. Some nervous women, when they got about 
halfway up and felt the building shake and tremble 
beneath their feet, became so frightened that they 
would turn back and decline to proceed further. But 
Al and his mother spent many pleasant hours on the 


summit of the tower, and they were never tired of 
gazing over the magnificent stretch of land and water 
mapped out beneath them. Mr. Edison possessed an / 

old telescope, which he sometimes loaned to Al, and / 
the boy would "sweep" the sky-line with all the skill 
of an old explorer. 

At Port Huron the family lived for several years, 
united and happy. Mrs. Edison continued to conduct 
the education of her son with that rigid observance of 
punctuality and other rules which she would have 
exercised had she been holding a class in the public 
schools. And Al repaid her well by his seriousness, ^^ 
his wonderful gift for absorbing knowledge, and his" 
ability to remember things. He had, indeed, a mar- 
vellous memory and never needed to be told twice 
regarding any matter which really interested him. 
He had learned his alphabet in a few lessons and his 
progress in reading, writkig, geography, and arith- 
metic was equally rapid. At the age of nine he had 
read, or his mother had read to him, "The Penny 
Encyclopaedia," Hume's "History of England," "His- 
tory of the Reformation," Cxibbon's " Rome," Sears's 
"History of the World," and several works on sub- 
jects which had a wonderful fascination for him even 
at that time — electricity and science. 

He read these books seriously, too, never skipped^, 
the big paragraphs or passed over the iminteresting 
and difficult chapters. When he came to a particu- 
larly abstruse sentence he would get his mother to 
explain the facts to him and she could always satisfy 
his inquiring mind. Some of these books Mrs. Edison 
would read aloud, not to her son only but to her hus- 
band and other children as well. She was a beautiful 
reader, with a soft, clear, and finely modulated voice. 
Mr. Edison often declared in later years that he was 


sure Al understood a good deal more about what his 
wife read than he did, for at times the subject of the 
books chosen was not altogether to his taste. He 
himself did not take any great interest in electricity 
and science, though he was very fond of history and 
historical works. 

When Al was about eleven years old the idea oc- 
curred to him that he might assist the family exchequer 
^y engaging in some work during the time when he 
was not studying. He made the suggestion to his 

/ mother, but for a long time she was averse to his be- 

I coming a breadwinner at so early an age. At last, 
however, he coaxed her aroimd to his way of thinking, 
and finally the two consulted as to what kind of work 
would be best suited to him. Al possessed opinions 
then very similar to those which he holds to-day, — 
that it does not matter much what you do so long as the 
work is honest and brings in the cash. And therefore 
he decided that for the time being he might do worse 
than sell newspapers. His idea, however, was not to 
shout the news-sheets through the streets, but to obtain 
a post where the work would be less precarious; and 
so with that excellent judgment which has characterized 

^^most of his business transactions he applied for the 
privilege of selling newspapers, books, magazines, 
fruits and candies on the trains of the Grand Tnmk 
Railroad running between Port Huron and Detroit. 

During the time that his application was being con- 
sidered, for even then he believed in his own modem- 

/ ized version of the old proverb, " Everything comes to 
V him who hustles while he waits," he managed to make 

. a few nickels by selling newspapers on the streets. He 
had only been a short while at this work, however, when 
he received a letter informing him that he might have 
the job he had applied for and could commence business 


as soon as he pleased. He was very much elated, but 
his mother, ever fearful for his safety, was still some- 
what worried. She had vivid visions of smash-ups 
with Al beneath the overturned engine, but he suc- 
ceeded in laughing away her fears and a few days later 
entered on his duties with a light heart. 

Some accoimt of these days has come to us 
from Mr. Barney Maisonville, son of Captain Oliver 
Maisonville, who for over thirty years had charge 
of the Grand Trunk Transfer Steamers at Fort 
Gratiot and Detroit. Mr. Maisonville became ac- 
quainted with young Edison just prior to his going 
into business as a newsboy, but it was not until 
the war broke out that he was thrown into close 
friendship with the future inventor. "As near as I 
can make out," said Mr. Maisonville on one occasion 
when speaking of Edison, "young Al obtained the 
privilege of selling newspapers, books, and fruit on the 
trains running between Port Hiux>n and Detroit as a 
favor or for very small pay and received all the profits 
himself. One day he came and asked my parents to 
let me go with him on Saturdays, when there was no 
school, and help him with liis work. Consent was 
given and thereafter for more than a year I was a 
'candy butcher* on the train. The war was going on 
and there was a big demand for newspapers. 

"The train left Port Huron about 7 a.m., and ar- 
rived in Detroit at 10 A.M. Returning, it would leave 
Detroit at 4.30 p.m., and get back to Port Huron at 
7.30 P.M. He instructed me regarding my duties on 
the first Saturday and then let me do all the business 
afterwards by myself, and while on the train I very 
seldom saw him. There was a car on the train divided 
into three compartments — one for baggage, one for 
United States Mail, and the other for express matter. 


The express compartment was never used and AI 
employed it for a printing office and a chemical labora- 
tory. In it were stored jars of chemicals to make 
electrical currents, telegraph instruments, a printing 
ress, some type and a couple of ink-rollers. ^ 

"Al was very quiet and preoccupied in disposition./ 
He was of ordinary size, well built, with a thick head 
of brown hair and quite neglectful of his personal 
appearance. His mother kept him supplied with dean 
shirts and he always washed his face and hands, but 
I think in those days he did not often comb his hair. 
He would buy a cheap suit of clothes and wear them 
until they were worn out, when he would buy another. 
He never by any chance blacked his boots. Most 
boys like to have money, but he never seemed to care for 
it himself. The receipts of his sales, when I sold for 
him, were from eight to ten dollars the day, of which 
about one-half was profit. But when I handed the 
money to him he would simply take it and put it into his 
pocket. One day I asked him to coimt it, but he said : 
* Oh, never mind, I guess it's all right.* 

"When we got to Detroit we would take dinner at the 
Cass House, for which he would pay. Some of our 
time in Detroit was spent in buying goods to sell on 
the train, and we would go to the stores and buy papers, 
stationery, prize packets, fruit, peanuts, oranges, and 
candies. We carried the stationery and papers down 
to the cars ourselves, and the fruit men generally sent 
their goods to the depot. 

"Al was a curious but lovable fellow. I was rather 
high-spirited at that time, and I verily believe that I 
was one of the few persons who could make him laugh, 
though no one enjoyed a good story better than Al. 
He was always studying out something, and usually 
had a book dealing with some scientific subject in his 


• jpocket If you spoke to him he would answer intelli- 
^^ gently enough, but you could always see that he was 
thinking of something else when he was talking. Even 
when playing checkers he would move the pieces about 
carelessly as if he did it only to keep company, and not 
for any love of the game. His conversation was deliber- px*^^ 
ate, and he was slow in his actions and carriage. 

" Still, he showed sometimes that he knew how money 
could be made. When the papers containing the news 
of some big battle were published in Detroit he would 
telegraph to the station agents, who all liked him, and 
they would put up a bulletin board, and when the train 
arrived the papers would go oflf like hot cakes. I 
believe, however, that he would sooner have sat in his 
caboose studying than come out on the platform and 
sell newspapers. 

"His own paper, the Weekly Heraldy was a little 
bit of a thing about the size of a lady's handkerchief. 
Of coiurse he did not set it up altogether on thetrain, 
because you cannot set t3rpe and have it stand up on a 
car, but it was printed there. Sometimes the station- 
master at Mt Clemens, who was also a telegraph 
operator, would catch some coimtry news on the wires, 
and he would write it down and hand it to Al when the 
train came in. This news, of course, would be later 
than that contained in the daily papers. He would 
immediately retire to his caboose, set it up, put it on 
the little form, and before the train reached Ridge- 
way he would have it printed oflF. I sold lots of these 
papers for three cents each." 

Of the Weekly Herald there is, so far as is known, 
but one copy now in existence, and this is in the pos- 
session of Mrs. Edison, who treasures it beyond any 
other souvenir of her husband's early days. It hangs 
on the wall of the inventor's "den" at Glenmont, 


Llewellyn Park, the present residence of the family, 
and is preserved between two sheets of glass, so that 
both sides of the interesting little journal may be read. 
It is in a very good condition, if rather seamed down 
the centre, evidently through being carried folded for 
some time in the owner's pocket. The date on this 
copy is February 3, 1862, so it must have been published 
before the editor had reached the patriarchal age of 
(^fteen. The paper is the size of a large sheet of busi- 
ness ''note," printed on both sides and unfolded. 
Single numbers were sold at three cents apiece, but 
monthly or yearly subscribers obtained the paper for 
eight cents per month. At the height of its popularity 
the paper had a regular subscription circulation of 
five hundred copies, while another couple of hundred 
were bought by chance passengers on the train. All the 
work — setting up, printing, and publishing — being 
performed by the proprietor himself, a clear profit of 
, /Something like forty-five dollars a month accrued 
from this modest publication. 

The copy of the Weekly Herald which was shown 
to the present writer by Mrs. Edison contains plenty 
of interesting news, and though the spelling and 
punctuation are not perfect, the ''editing" generally 
reflects the greatest credit on the young proprietor. 
The paper is a three-colunm sheet, the fint coliunn 
being headed as follows: 


Published by A. Edison. 


The Weekly Eight Cents per Month. 






The first part of the paper is devoted to "Local 
Inteiegence/' and contains the following items of 
news and gossip: 

"Premiums:— We believe that the Grand Trunk Railway, 
give premiums, every six months to their Engineers, who use 
the least Wood and Oil, running the usual journey. Now we 
have rode with Mr. £. L. Northrop, one of their Engineers, and 
we do not believe you could fall in with another Engineer, more 
careful, or attentive to his Engine, being the most steady driver 
that we have ever rode behind (and we consider ourselves some 
judge haveing been Railway riding for over two years constantly,) 
always kind, and obligeing, and ever at his post. His Engine 
we understand does not cost one fourth for repairs what the 
other Engines do. We would respectfully recommend him to 
the kindest consideration of the G. T. R. Offices. 

"The more to do the more done: — We have observed along 
the line of lailway at the different stations where there is only 
one Porter, such as at Utica, where he is fully engaged, from morn- 
ing until late at night, that he has everything dean, and in first 
dass order, even the platforms the snow does not lie for a week 
after it has fallen, but is swept off before it is almost down, at 
other stations where there is two Porters things are visa a versa. 

"J, S. P. Hathaway runs a daily Stage from the station to 
New Baltimore in connection with all Passenger Trains. 

"Professor [name unreadable] has returned to Canada 

after entertaining delighted audiences at New Baltimore for 
the past two weeks listening to his comical lectures, etc. 

"Did'nt succeed: — A Gentleman by the name of Watkins, 
agent for the Hayitan government, recently tried to swindle 
the Grand Trunk Railway company of sixty-seven dollars the 
price of a valise he daimed to have lost at Samia, and he was 
well night successful in the undertaking. 

"But by the indominatable perseverance and energy of Mr. 
W. Smith, detective of the company, the case was deared up 
in a very different style. It seems that the would be gentleman 
while crossing the river on the ferry boat, took the check off of 


his valise, and carried the valise in his hand, not forgetting to 
put the check in his pocket, the baggageman missed the baggage 
after leaving Port Huron, while looking over his book to see if 
he had every thing with him, but to his great surprise found he 
had lost one piece, he telegraphed back stateing so, but no bag- 
gage could be found. It was therefore given into the hands of 
Mr. Smith, to look after, in the meantime Mr. Watkms, wrote 
a letter to Mr. Tubman. Agent at Detroit, asking to be satisfied 
for the loss he had sustained in consequence, and referring Mr. 
Tubman to Mr. W. A. Howard, Esq., of Detroit, and the Hon. 
Messrs. Brown and Wilson of Toronto for reference. We hardly 
know how such men are taken in with suich traveling villians, but 
such is the case, meantime Mr. Smith, cleared up the whole 
mystery by finding the lost valioe in his possession and the Hay- 
tian agent offered to pay ten dollars for the trouble he had put 
the company to, and to have the matter hushed up, 

"Not so, we feel that the villian should have his name posted 
up in the various R. R. in the country, and then he wll be able 
to travel in his true colors. 

''We have noticed of late, the large quantitys of men, taken 
by Leftenant Donohue, 14 regt. over the G. T. R. to their rendez- 
vous at Ypsalanta and on inquiring find that he has recruited 
more men than any other man in the regiment. If his energy 
and perseverance in the field when he meets the enemy, is as 
good as it was in his recruiting on the line of the Grand Trunk R. 
he will make a mark that the enemy won't soon forget. 

"Heavy Shipments at Baltimore — we werflUayid the other 
day at New Baltimore Station, waiting for a fnend, and while 
waiting, took upon oiuiselves to have a peep at things generly; 
we saw in the freight house of the GTR. 400 bis # flour and 
150 hogs, waiting for shipment to Portland." 

A certain section of the paper was devoted to an- 
nouncements of births, deaths, and marriages likely to 
interest subscribers and their friends, and not infre- 
quently the young editor would be handed an item 
of the kind by one of his many patrons. He took care 
to let all know that the colimms of his publication were 


always open for such announcements — not for pay- 
ment, but as a courtesy. The present copy of the paper 
has no death or marriage notice, but there is a birth 
chronicled in the following succinct language : 


"At Detroit Junction G. T. R. Refreshment Rooms on the 
29th inst., the wife of A. Little of a daughter." 

It would be interesting to know if the lady is still 

Two announcements of especial interest and en- 
couragement to subscribers are printed, viz.: 

"We expect to enlarge our paper in a few weeks." 

"In a few weeks each subscriber will have his name printed 
on his paper." 

Then comes a little bit of philosophy which appears 
to be somewhat profound for a boy of fifteen : 

"Reason Justice and Equity, never had weight enough on 
the face of the earth to govern the councils of men." 

Next are a number of " Notices," some of which, it 
may be presumed, were either paid for as advertise- 
ments or inserted in return for "coiutesies received": 


"A very large business is done at M. V. Milords Waggon 
and carriage shop, New Baltimore Station. All orders promptly 
attended to. Particular attention paid to repairing. 


''A daily Stage leaves the above Station for St Clair, every 
day. Fare 75 cents. 


"A Daily stage leaves the above named place for Utica and 
Romeoy Fare $x.oo. 

''Rose & Buskel, proprietors. 


"A Daily Stage leaves Ridgeway Station for Burkes Cor. 
Armada Cor. and Romeo. 

"A Daily stage leaves Ridgeway Station on aiiival of all pas- 
senger trains from Detroit for Memphis. 

"R. Quick, proprietor. 


"A daily Stage leaves the above named Station, on arrival 
of Accommadation Train from Detroit for Utica, Disco, Wash- 
ington and Romeo. 

"S. A. Frink, driver. Mr. Frink is one of the oldest and most 
careful drivers known in the State. (Ed.) 


"A daily stage leaves the above named station, for Romeo, 
on arrival. of the morning train from Detroit, our stage arrives 
at Romeo two hours before any other stage. 

"Hicks & Halsy, prop." 

Then comes "The News," which must have been 
somewhat scarce that week, for it is brief. Three 
items only, two of which scarcely appear to be in their 
right section, are recorded : 


"Cassius M. Clay will enter the army on his return home. 

"The thousandth birthday of the Empire of Russia will be 
oelebiated at Novgorod in august. 

" 'Let me collect myself,' as the man said when he was blown 
up by a powder mill." 

The fifth column contains the only illustration of 


which the paper boasts. It is a woodcut of a railway 
train of a somewhat antique build, the engine, with 
steam up, emitting a great quantity of very black 
smoke. The cut appropriately heads . the column 
devoted to the announcements of the "Grand Trunk 
Railroad," and is useful in the present number for 
the — 


"Going West 
"Express, leaves Port Huion, 7.05 P.M. 
"Mixed for Detroit, leaves Pt. Huron at 7.40 A.M. 

"Going East. 
"Express leaves Detroit, for Toronto, at 6.15 A.M. 
"Mixed for Pt. Huron leaves at 4.00 P.M. 

"Two Freight Trains each way. 

"C. R. Chmstie, Supt." 

"Stages " played an important part in transportation 
during the days that the Weekly Herald flourished, 
and therefore it is not surprising to find that young 
Edison devoted considerable space to announcements 
in connection with them. In the column denoting 
changes of time on the Grand Trunk there are the 
following advertisements of — 


"New Baltimore Station. 

"A tri-weekly stage leaves the above named station on every 
day for New Baltimore, Algonac, Swan Creek, and Newport 

"S. Graves, proprietor. 

"Dally Express leaves New Baltimore Station every morning 


on arrival of the train from Detroit. For Baltimore, Algonac, 
Swan Cieek and Newport. 

"Curtis & Bennett, proprietors. 


"An omnibus leaves the station for Pt. Huron on the arrival 
of all trains." 

When passengers lost property or left parcels on 
the trains Edison was often appealed to and asked 
to announce the fact in the columns of his paper. 
He was always obliging in this respect, and though 
he seldom got payment for these advertisements it 
^was highly gratifying to him when lost property was 
returned through a notice inserted in his paper. One 
such announcement appears in the copy under inspec- 
tion, and is printed in large type in order to attract 
special attention : 


"A small parcel of doth was lost on the cars. 
"The finder will be liberally rewarded." 

Though no address is given indicating the person to 
whom the lost property was to be returned, subscribers 
always understood that if they found the mislaid 
parcel, or whatever it happened to be, they must 
communicate with the "Newsagent on the Mixed," 
which was the Editor himself. 

Many of Edison's regular subscribers were inter- 
ested in farm products, and for their especial benefit 
he always devoted a certain portion of his paper to 
the market prices ruling during that week. It may 
not be without interest, therefore, to give the quotations 
as prmted in this number of the Weekly Herald : 



"New Baltiinoie. 
"Butter at xo to 19 cents per lb. 
"Eggs at 13 cents per dozen. 
"Lard at 7 to 9 cents per lb. 
"Dressed hogs at 3.00 to 3.35 per 100 lbs. 
"Mutton at 4 to 5 cents per lb. 
"Flour at 4.50 to 4.75 per 100 lbs. 
"Beans at i.oo to 1.20 per bush. 
"Potatoes at 30 to 35 cts. per bushel. 
"Com at 30 to 35 cts. per bush. 
"Turkeys at 50 to 65 cts. each. 
"Chickens at 10 to i a cts. each. 
"Geese at 215 to 35 cents each. 
"Ducks at 30 cents per pair." 

The last half-column of the paper is devoted to 
and contains the following notices : 


"At Baltimore Station. 
"The above named Hotel is now open for the reception of 
Travelers. The Bar will be supplied with the best of Liquors, 
and every attention will be paid to the comfort of the Guests. 

"S. Graves, proprietor. 





The Newsagent on the Mixed. 

"Ridgeway Refreshment Rooms: — I would inform my 
friends that I have opened a Refreshment Room for the accom- 
modation of the traveling public. 

"R. Allen, proprietor. 



''Railway men send in your orders for Butter, Eggs, Laid, 
Cheese, Turkeys, Chickens and Geese. 

"W. C. HuLCH, New Baltimore Station." 

The Weekly Herald attracted the attention of the 
English engineer Stephenson, who happened to be 
travelling on the "Mixed" one day, and who pur- 
chased a copy. He complimented the young editor 
on his enterprise, said the paper was as good as many 
he had seen edited by men twice his age, and gave an 
order for a thousand copies. Even the London Times 
expressed interest in the paper, and unbent suflEiciently 
to quote from its columns, and it is more than probable 
that if Edison had not followed the life of an inventor 
he would have continued his work as an editor, and, 
if he had, his name would, doubtless, have become 
equally famous in the newspaper world. 

Mr. Maisonville, the gentleman already referred to, 
was on the train when the incident occurred which 
struck the death-knell of the Weekly Herald. The 
story has been repeatedly told, with various alterations 
and additions, but here is an authentic account of 
what actually happened. Young Maisonville was 
busily engaglid in the front car selling papers and 
candies, while Edison was in the baggage van — or 
"Laboratory and Printing Shop," as the trainmen 
occasionally called it when in merry moods — engaged 
in one of his many experiments, when the train ran 
over a bit of rough road ; there was a heavy lurch, and 
a bottle of phosphorus fell to the floor of the car and 
burst into flame. The woodwork caught fire, and 
Edison was finding considerable difiSculty in stemming 
the progress of the fire when Alexander Stevenson, the 
conductor, made his appearance. 


Stevenson was a Scotchman, an elderly man with 
iron-gray hair, a rubicimd face, and an accent that 
would have been strong even in the heart of Mid- 
lothian. Moreover he had a temper, which may 
best be described as ''hasty." He didn't waste any 
time talking while the fire was in progress, but quickly 
fetching some buckets of water, soon had the flames 
e^inguished. Then he let out a flood of eloquence 
which soimded like a chapter from a Scott novel, and 
when the train arrived a few minutes later at Mt. 
Clemens Station, he pitched the young experimenter 
on to the platform, and hurled after him the type and 
printing press, the telegraph apparatus, the bottles of 
chemicals, and, in fact, the entire contents of the labora- 
tory. Then he signalled the train to proceed, and left 
the future inventor forlornly standing among the ruins 
of his most cherished possessions. 

Lest it may be supposed that Conductor Stevenson 
was utterly unfeeling and entirely lacking in all sym- 
pathy with searches after knowledge, a few words 
appear to be necessary. Stevenson had a good heart, 
and was by no means unfriendly towards Edison, but, 
like many other worthy Scotchmen, his temper was 
fiery, and when his wrath was aroused he usually 
acted with a good deal of haste. He considered that 
the limit of friendship was reached when the boy set 
the train — his train — on fire, and thereby jeopardized 
the lives of those committed to his care. He argued 
that at such times it was well to act quickly, and so he 
simimarily kicked the young experimenter and his 
belongings off the train at the first stopping-place, and 
congratulated himself on having done his company 
good service. Soon afterwards he resigned his position, 
and removed to a small village near St. John's, Michigan, 
where he became an important and respected member 


of the commiinity. There he was made a Justice of 
the Peace, and for some years sat on the bench, where 
he administered the law with much more leniency than 
he had shown when a conductor on the Grand Trunk 

The man who sold Edison the printing-press used 
by him in the publication of his paper was J. A. Roys, 
at that time the most prominent bookseller in Detroit. 
"I sold Edison that famous printing-press," he often 
told customers who questioned him regarding his 
friendship with the inventor, ''and I have sometimes 
wondered what became of it. I suppose it was pretty 
well smashed up when Stevenson dumped it out on the 
platform. The press formerly belonged to the man 
who was landlord of the Cass House, at one time the 
best hotel in Detroit. He used the machine to print 
the bill of fare in that hotel, but he made a failure of 
the place and went to smash. He afterwards became 
tenant of a house that I owned, but after the first quarter 
he failed to pay the rent. To reimburse me he turned 
over, among other articles, the printing-press. Young 
Edison, who was a good boy and a favorite of mine, 
bought goods of me and had the run of the i^re, saw 
the press, and I suppose the idea of publish^ a paper 
of his own immediately occurred to him^r he would^ 
catch on to an3rthing new like lightning. He examineST 
the machine, got me to show him exactly how it worked, 
and finally bought it from me for a small sum. After- 
wards I saw many copies of the paper he printed, and 
for several years kept some as curiosities, but they got 
torn up or lost, and now I don't believe there is one to 
be had unless he owns it himself. He was a smart 
youngster, and I always prophesied great things of 




Having lost his laboratory on the Grand Trunk, 
Edison immediately set about finding some other place 
where he could continue his experiments. He did not 
•^nd escend to make overtures to Stevenson for a re- 
newal of his tenancy of the baggage-wagon, but took 
his father into his confidence, explained matters, and 
begged for a room in the Port Huron house which he 
might fit up as a workshop. His father, however, on 
learning that the cause of his sudden exodus from the 
train was due to his setting fire to the car during his 
scientific investigations, at first declined to allow him 
lo experiment in the house, but on his son promising 
not to store anything inflammable he relented, gave 
him a room near the roof, and told him he might " go 
ahead." So the boy bought more chemicals, some 
crude telegraph instruments, wire, and tools, and was 
jpon more deeply absorbed in his scientific studies 
than ever. 

He still continued to publish his paper, but it was set 
up and printed in his workshop at home from type which 
had been given to him by a friend connected with the 
DetroU Free Press. At this time he had over five 
hundred subscribers, so he had no desire to close down 
a concern which was founded on so sound a basis. 
But in an unlucky hour he was persuaded by a journal- 
istic friend to discontinue the Herald in favor of another 


paper of a more personal charaeter, which the youthful 
editors and proprietors call&yPaul Pry. This journal 
never was a real success.,yrhe editors were too out- 
spoken, and some of the public characters of Port 
Huron and the surrounding towns whom they ''guyed" 
were so sensitive that they took offence, and were not 
slow in expressing their disapproval of the paper's 
policy. Indeed, one gentleman was so annoyed at a 
certain "personal'' reflecting somewhat upon himself, 
that on meeting Edison he wasted no time telling him 
what he thought of his paper, but seizing him by the 
coat collar and a certain ^aggy portion of his pants, 
threw him into the canal. xA^he boy was a good swimmer, 
so that with the exception of a wetting he came to no 
harm. ySut he had learned his lesson. He argued 
that if others who took offence expressed themselves 
in a similar way, he would have little time to work out 
n/ those ideas which were even then coursing through his 
brain. So he broke loose from Paul Pry, and the 
paper came to an inglorious end. 

He still kept his job as ''candy butcher" on the 
Grand Trunk, and the business continued to grow. 
Many stories have been written regarding- these train 
days — perhaps the most interesting period of his 
early youth — and some of them have possibly been 
quite new to Edison. Here is one, however, which 
an anonymous writer declares was related to him by 
the inventor himself, and which, therefore, may be 
considered authentic. The occasion of its narration 
was a "reunion" at which were present Edison and a 
gentleman who happened also to have been at one time 
a candy seller on the Grand Trunk. The two imme- 
diately began to compare notes, and laughed together 
over the way they used to work the peanut trick on cus- 
tomers. Readers who know nothing of the American. 


''candy butcha:" and his methods may be interested 
inl$aming the modus operandi of this famous deception. 
v^Bnefly, it was a trick whereby an imsuspecting client 
paid for a measure of peanuts when he really obtained 
only half that quantity. 

It was engineered in this way. The tin measures 
which the boys used were long and narrow, being 
smaller at the top than at the bottom. In filling a 
measure an adept at the trick would push it rapidly 
through the peanuts into the open basket. A few 
nuts would rattle inside, but almost immediately a 
dozen or two would jam or wedge in the narrow mouth 
of the measiure. When lifted up the measure would 
appear to be full, and as the trick would be performed 
in view of the pxurchaser, the latter would suspect 
nothing, and innocently allow the boy to dump the con- 
tents of the half-empty can into his pocket, when, of 
course, all trace of the deception would be lost. Edison 
acknowledges that he sometimes worked this trick on 
customers, though on one occasion he received, such a 
dressing from a client who had detected him in the act 
— and who went to the trouble of informing all in the 
car as to "how it was done" — that he ultimately came 
t8<the conclusion that honesty was the best policy evepL^ 
\/Bmong candy butchers, and ever afterwards gave full 
measure and running over. 

While laughing over the remembrance of these 
days, Edison said: ''A funny thing occurred when I 
was newsboy on one of the old three-car trains. In 
my day, you know, they used to run trains made up of 
three coaches — a baggage-car, a smoking-car, and 
what we called a ladies' car. The ladies' car was 
always last in the string. Well, one day I was carrying 
my basket of nuts and apples through the ladies' car — 
I hadn't sold a thing so far — when I noticed two 


young fellows sitting near the rear end of the car. 
They were dandies, what might be called * dudes/ 
but we called them 'stifl&es' in those days. They 
were young Southerners up North on a lark, as I 
found out afterwards. Behind them sat a negro valet 
who had a large iron-bound box beside him on the seat. 
Probably he was an old slave. He was dressed in as 
many colors as an English flunkey, and looked mighty 

"As I passed the dudes one of them took the basket 
and threw the contents out of the window. Then he 
told the colored man to give me a dollar. The man 
grinned, and turning to the box beside him, he opened 
it. It was really full of money and valuables. He 
took out a dollar and gave it to me. I grabbed it and 
walked up the car. , I was still siu^jrised. At the door 
I looked back at them, and everybody laughed at me 
for some reason or other — all except the young men, 
they never even smiled diuing the whole performance. 

"Well, I filled up my basket with prize packages 
and came back through the train. Nobody bought 
any of them. When I reached the Southerners, 
however, the same one said, 'Excuse me, sir,' grabbed 
the basket again, and sent the prize packages after the 
peanuts. He handed me my basket and sat back 
without a smile, but everybody else laughed again. 
This time I said, 'Look here, mister, do you know 
how much those were worth?' *No,* he said — 'how 
much?' 'There were three dozen and four at ten 
cents each,' I replied, 'not to mention the prizes in 
some of them.' 

"'Oh!' he said. Then turning to the colored man, 
'Nicodemus, coimt how much the boy ought to have 
and give it to him.' The man opened his box and gave 
me four dollars, and again I went away with the empty 


basket, while the passengers laughed. Next I brought 
in some morning papers, and nobody bought those 
either. Somehow the passengers had caught the spirit 
of the thing, and as it cost them nothing they appar- 
ently did not wish to deprive the Southerners of their 
fun. I was watchful when I came to the young bloods 
this time, and J carried the papers so that they could 
grab them easUy. Sure enough, the nearest one threw 
them out of the window after the other things. I sat 
on the edge of a seat and laughed myself. 'Settle with 
Nicodemus,' he said, and Nicodemus settled up. 

"Then I had an idea. I went into the baggage- 
car and got every paper I could find. I had a lot of 
that day's stock and over a hundred returns of the day 
before which I was going to turn in at the end of the 
nm. The whole lot was so heavy that I could just 
manage to carry it on my shoulder. When I stag- 
gered into the ladies' car and called ' Paper 1' in the 
usual drawl, the passengers fairly shrieked with laughter. 
I thought the Southerners would back down, but they 
never flinched. They both just grabbed those papers 
and hurled them out of the window by the armful. 
We could see them flying behind the train like great 
white birds — you know we had large blanket sheets 
then — and they spread themselves over the landscape 
in a way that must have startled the rural population 
of the district. I got over ten dollars for all my papers. 

"The dandy was game. 'Look here, boy,' he said, 
when the passengers had seen the last of those papers 
floating around the curve, 'have you anything else on 
board?' 'Nothing except my basket and my box,* 
I replied. 'Well, brmg in those too.' The box was 
a big three by four in which we kept the goods — a 
great, dimisy affair. But I put the basket in the box 
and turned it over and over down the aisle of the car 


to where the fellows sat. They threw the basket out 
of the wmdow, but the box was too big to go that way. 
So they ordered Nicodemus to throw it oS the rear 

' platform. I charged them three dollars for that box. 
When it had gone one of them turned to me and said : 

\ "*How much money have you made to-day?' I 

coimted up over twenty-five dollars which Nicodemus 
had given me. ' Now/ he said, *you are sure you have 
nothing more to sell?' I would have brought in the 
smoking-car stove if it hadn't been hot. But I was 
compelled to say that there was really nothing more. 
* Very well/ and then with a change of tone he turned 
to. the negro and said, ' Nicodemus, throw this boy out 
of the window.' The passengers yelled with laughter, 
but I got out of that car pretty quick, I can tell you." 

During these days young Edison had not as much 
time as he desired for investigating the mysterieSr^ 
of electricity. His work on the train occupied huS^ 
from seven in the morning until nearly nine at night, 
and his father, having been brought up on the old 
maxim that early to bed and early to rise would confer 
health, wealth, and wisdom on those who followed the 
advice, insisted on^his son retiring at 9.30. This was 
a very great gr^vance, and the boy frequently ex- 
postulated, but'^^dr. Edison was gifted with an ada- 
mantine wUl, and he declined to budge from the 9.30 
rule>y So Al had again to set his wits to work to break 
down this barrier to his progress as an electrical ex- 
perimenter. How he accomplished this is best told in 
his own words. 

"While a newsboy on the railroad," he says, "I 
got very much interested in electricity, probably from 
visiting telegraph offices with a chum who had tastes 
similar to my own. We ran a telegraph line between 
our respective houses, supporting the wire on trees 


and insidating it by the necks of bottles. We learned 
how to 'send' and 'take/ and got a lot of fun out of it 
when we were not on the run. But my spare time was 
limited, for just as soon as I commenced making ex- 
periments with the instruments each night I would 
hear my father's voice ordering me to bed. At that 
time what he said was law, and if I tried to sneak a 
few hours up in the workshop he would come in and take 
the light away. So I had to think of the best way to 
overcome his prejudice to late study. 

''Each evening I would come in with a bimch of 
papers that I had not sold, and my father would start 
in to read them, and I had to go to bed, while he sat 
up till midnight reading the news. But he never be- 
came so absorbed that he failed to hear 9.30 chime, 
though frequently I gave him long, interesting articles 
to read, hoping that it would take his mind oflF the time. 
But it was no good; as the half-hour approached his 
eye would wander towards the clock, and at the tick 
I would hear his voice yelling to me to go to bed, and 
off I went. But one day on the train my chum and I 
concocted a plan whereby we hoped to break down 
this foolish rule. That night I didn't bring any papers 
home, and when my father asked me for one I said, 
'Dick's got them all. He took them to his house. 
His folks wanted them.' That took him back a bit, 
but I didn't say any more imtO I was going to bed, 
and then I made a suggestion. 'Dick and I have a 
telegraph line working between our rooms,' I said; 
'maybe I could call him up and get the news by wire.' 
Well, my father was quite agreeable, though probably 
sylittle dubious about our ability, but I went to work, 
Bud everything turned out all right. 
/ "I called on Dick, and he sat at the other end of the 
y^/ wire with a paper in front of him sending the news. 



while I took it on slips of paper, handing them over to 
my father to read as fast as each item was finished. 
There I sat until after 11 o'clock, feeding my father 
the news in broken doses and getting a lot of amuse- 
ment and telegraphic practice out of it. This went 
on every night for some time, until my father was quite 
persuaded that I could stay up late without serious 
harm. And then I began bringing papers home again 
and. put my extra time allowance on my experiments." 
CXhis hobby of rigging up telegraph lines between 
his home and those of his boy friends was a favourite 
one with Edison, and he was sending and receiving 
messages at all hours of the day and night to and from 
half a dozen houses. One of the operators, who lived 
within a himdred yards of the Edison home, could not 
receive very well, and would come out, climb on the 
fence, and yell across to know what message Al had 
been sending. This always angered Edison, for he 
seemed to take it as a reflection on his telegraph line. 
The work of constructing workable wires between the 
various houses was not easy, and had it not been for 
Edison's perseverance the experiments would have 
been abandoned soon after they were started. At first 
the wires were nm from tree to tree, but subsequently 
small poles were erected. This was a considerable 
advantage, and messages were despatched and received 
with remarkable smoothness. 

One morning, however, Edison awoke to find his 
telegraph poles "down" and everything more or less 
in chaos. If a cyclone had struck the town the damage 
could not have been more complete, yet it was all due 
to nothing more terrible than a peace-loving but straying 
cow. The animal had wandered into the orchard 
during the night, knocked down one of the poles, and 
become so entangled in the wires that very soon she had 


the rest of the sticks lying useless. Her terror increased 
as she became the more hopelessly imprisoned in the 
coils, and it was not long before she proceeded to let 
the neighbors know some of her difficulties. Her 
mournful bellowing had the desired effect, and several 
people from the neighboring houses rushed to her 
rescue, cut away the wires and liberated the terrified 
animal, but not until she had irretrievably damaged 
the delicate instruments which had been adjusted at the 
cost of so much labor. The wires were never re-strung, 
for soon after Edison obtained a position where he was 
able to practise as a telegraph operator all he wanted 
without having to erect lines. 



It was in 1862, when Edison was fi fteen years of 
age, that an event occurred which considerably stimu- 
lated his interest in telegraphy. While foUowmg his 
occupation as " candy butdher" he dropped off the 
train one day at Mt. Clemens — the vay station 
where he and his instruments had been so ignomini- 
ously ejected from the baggage-car by the incensed 
Stevenson a few months previously — to have a chat 
with the agent there, who was a particular friend of his. 
This man, J. U. Mackenzie, was a quiet, sympathetic, 
sensible individual, and between the two a friendship 
had formed which was broken only by the death of 
Mackenzie some years ago. He was telegraph opera- 
tor as well as agent, and it was from him that Ekiison 
so often received items of news which came over the 
wire and which he published in his paper. 

On the day referred to Edison and his friend were 
standing on the platform chatting over the events of 
the day when the latter's baby son ran out of the office 
and on to the track. Mackenzie did not ol}serve him, 
but Edison, following the boy's progress, was dismayed 
to see him take up a position between the metals on 
which a freight train was running at an express clip. 
With a hasty word to Mackenzie, Edison dashed 
across the track and succeeded in pulling the child 
away just as the train tore by. He brought the boy 



back to his father, and the poor man was so overcome 
that he could only gasp outm$pherent words of thank- 
fulness and gratitude. Af^^ways cool, hastily bade 
the agent good-by and did not see him again for some 

The next time they met, Mackenzie, who had been 
worrying his brains as to the best way of rewarding 
the lad who had really risked his life to save that ol~^;.^ 
his child, oflFered to teach him how to become a tele- 
graph operator. The offer was gladly accepted, and 
«^or three months, four days a week, after he had finished 
his work on the train, Edison dropped off at Mt. Clemens 
and received lessons from Mackenzie in the mysteries 
of telegraphy. At the end of that period he knew so 
much about telegraphic mstruments, and had become 
so expert an operator, that his teacher informed him 
that he might now graduate. 

"By this time," said Mackenzie in after years, "he 
knew as much about telegraphy as I did, and on my 
suggestion he applied for a position as night operator 
at Port Huron Station. He obtained it, and mighty 
proud he was when he informed me that his sdary 
had been fixed at twenty-five dollars a month." 

His duties were not very exhausting, for he had 
but to record the passing of trains; but Edison, unlike 
the majority of night operators, could seldom be per->> 
suaded to sleep during the day, and consequently he 
went on duty each night feeling drowsy and tired. He 
had, of xourse, resigned his position on the train, but 
it is a question whether he did not work just as hard 
in his workshop at home when he should have been 
resting. He was constantly thinking of and evolving 
new schemes, and, as a matter of fact, his mind was 
not always on his work. His telegraphic reports were 
meagre in the extreme, and though the train dispatcher 


was a particular friend of his — like almost every one 
who came in contact with him — and had a real affec- 
tion for the boy, he was always threatening to report 
him for inattention to duty. 

Edison did not wish to give up his experimenting 
during the day, but it was absolutely necessary that 
he should obtain sleep somehow, so after consulting 
the railroad timetable with considerable care he pur- 
chased a clock furnished with a particularly aggressive 
alarm, carried it to his office one night, and set it to 
go off five minutes before the first train was scheduled 
to pass. Then he settled himself comfortably and 
proceeded to enjoy a nap. Pimctual to the minute 
the clock roused him, when he would send his message, 
set the clock for the next train, and go to sleep again. 

The plan worked excellently so long as the trains 
were on time, but — well, sometimes they were not, 
and then there was more trouble. The despatcher 
began to lose patience. He had a serious talk with 
Edison, and in very solemn tones informed him that 
the next time he slept on duty he would be reported 
to the company. Edison, very contrite, assured him 
that it should not happen again, and for a couple of 
nights his messages were all that could be desired. 
But it was impossible to keep the thing up long, for 
his experiments during the day still continued, and 
sleep he must have. 

His brain soon became busy again. The train 
despatcher, distrustful of his* promises and still fear- 
ing that he might drop off to sleep any moment while 
on duty, conceived a plan whereby he thought to 
guarantee Edison's remaining wakeful throughout 
the night. On his own initiative he ordered the sleepy 
operator to signal to him the letter "A" in die 
Morse alphabet every half -hour. Edison expressed the 


greatest delight at the plan and cheerfully agreed to 
fall in with the train despatcher's wishes. The first 
night he diligently sent "A" over the wire every thirty 
minutes, but towards morning he felt so sleepy and 
worn out that he clearly saw that some means must 
be contrived whereby he might obtain sleep between 

The following day he experimented long but suc- 
cessfully in his workshop at home, and that evening 
when he reported for duty there was a bland expres- 
sion on his countenance which might have revealed 
to the observant the fact that he had solved the diffi- 
culty. He carried a small box in his hand, and when 
he was alone in his office he opened this and took out 
various articles usually to be foimd in the kit of a line 
repairer, including some coils of wire. Then he spent 
lujf an hour or so putting the things together, and the 
result was an interesting-looking instrument which 
he connected by wire to the telegraph and the clock. 
Then he took a seat and waited. 

This is what happened. Promptly at the half-hour 
a little wooden lever fell, sending an excellent imita- 
tion of the Morse "A" to the telegraph key, and imme- 
diately afterwards another lever closed the circuit. 
Edison was jubilant. He watched the instrument 
for another half-hour and when it again fulfilled its 
duty he gave a sigh of relief and went to sleep. 

Every night the signal was faithfully flashed each 
half-hour and the train despatcher's confidence in 
Edisoji was becoming reestablished, when one of 
those circumstances over which the most ingenious 
has no control occurred and revealed the scheme in 
all its deceptions. The despatcher happened on his 
rounds one night to be only one station away from 
Edison, and after getting the usual signal he -bought 


he would call up the operator and have a chat with 
him. So he opened the key, and on getting no reply 
became alarmed. He called for fifteen minutes, and 
then, feeling sure that something terrible had occurred, 
he rode to the next station on a hand-car. 

Looking through the office window in considerable 
anxiety — for he half expected to find the operator 
murdered — he was astoimded to see Edison quietly 
sleeping in a comer of the room, his steady breathing 
indicating the profoundness of his slumbers. He 
was about to arouse him angrily when his attention 
was attracted to a curious bit of mechanism which 
stood on the table near the telegraph instrument, and 
as it was close upon the half-hour the despatcher de- 
cided to wait and see what would happen. He ex- 
pected something to occur which would arouse the 
sleeper, and was therefore the more astonished when 
Edison still remained locked in slumber as the hands 
of the dock pointed to the time when the prearranged 
signal should be sent. But his astonishment was 
increased a himdredfold when he discovered that the 
queer bit of mechanism he had noticed performed 
the duty for him. Before his very eyes — he after- 
wards declared that he would not have believed it 
otherwise — the instrument "got busy," and while 
one lever threw open the key the other sent the signal 
over the wire. Then the astonished train despatcher 
also "got busy," and arousing Edison with no gentle 
hands declared in forcible language that he was done 
with him, and the same day the Port Huron operator 
was looking for another job. 

But in spite of his inattention to duty Edison had 
given evidence over and over again of his wonderful 
skill and quickness in grappling with a difficulty, and 
many stories illustrative of this trait in his character 


are told in Port Huron to-day. On one occasion, for 
instance, there was an interruption in the line to Detroit, 
and the day operator asked Edison to look out and 
try and ascertain where the trouble was. The boy 
immediately laid a wire from his father's house and 
strung it along the railway fence. Thence he tumbled 
down the bank by the swing bridge and fastened a 
wire to one end of the cable, which, as he suspected, 
had been parted by a passing vessel. Then he went 
back and was telling the day operator what he had 
done, when George Christie, a line repairer, came along, 
and, overhearing the conversation, dropped his kit 
and wanted to lick Edison for interfering with his 
work. But the day operators got between them and 
prevented a fight and Edison escaped. Christie was 
finally persuaded that the boy he was desirous of club- 
bing had really performed a far-sighted and commend- 
able feat. 

From Port Hiuon Edison went to Samia, where 
he remained some months as telegraph operator at 
the railroad station. And here again he got into a 
scrape which might have landed him in the State 
prison. While experimenting, he allowed a train to 
pass by his station when he should have stopped it, 
as there was another train immediately ahead. The 
instant it had flashed by, Edison realized the serious- 
ness of the affair, and, in a fever, ran down the line, 
shouting as he went, and fervently praying that he 
might be in time to avert an accident. This, of course, 
was an insane hope, and a terrible calamity would 
have occurred had not the engine-drivers heard each 
other's whistles in time to realize their danger and 
thus prevent a rear-^nd collision. Edison was so 
relieved at the outcome of his carelessness that when 
he was summoned before the manager of the line he 



was almost light-hearted. But when he learned that 
there was a probability of his being prosecuted for his 
neglect of duty, he decided to take the matter into his 
own hands, and while the Board were consulting as 
to his fate, he packed his belongings and returned 
to Port Huron. 

ere he obtained a position in the Western Union 
Office, for he was now a r apid operator, and his skill 
with the key was beginning to be recognized. But 
an unfortunate incident occurred a few months later 
which decided him to throw up his post and shake 
the dust of Port Huron from his feet. It appears 
that the leading local daily being extremely anxious 
to obtain a report of the Presidential message to Con- 
gress — which was hoiurly expected — ofiFered the 
agent of the Western Union sixty dollars if he would 
seciure it. The agent closed with the bargain, and 
knowing that Edison was the most skilled operator 
in his employ promised him a third of the sum as a 
bonus if he would receive the message. Exlison gladly 
agreed, and took the message, but when he asked 
for his twenty dollars he wal calmly assured by his 
chief that he did not intend ta payeithear the bonus 
promised or any additional sum^or extra work. Edi- 
son, astoimded at the man's barefaced dishonesty, 
but recognizing that he had no repress — the agent's 
word would, he knew, have greater weight than his — 
declined to serve any longer under him and went to 
consult his friend Mackenzie. Mackenzie, full of 
sympathy, wanted Edison to sue the agent, but, quickly 
coming to the conclusion that the game was hardly 
worth the candle, advised him instead to apply for 
the post of night operator on the railroad at Stratford, 
Canada, which was then vacant. Edison took his 
friend's advice, sent in his application, and was at 


once given the position at the modest remuneration 
of twenty-five dollars a month. 

At Stratford he remained a few weeks only, for he 
saw there was little opportimity of advancement and 
the pay was scarcely sufficient to keep him in food 
and lodging. On the advice of a friend, therefore, he 
took train to Indianapolis, where he believed he would 
stand a fair chance of obtaining a good position. And 
here it may be remarked that it is a somewhat curious 
fact that in all his ups and downs during the early 
part of his life it never seemed to occur to Edison to 
try any profession other than that of a telegrapher. 
He was a bom operator and at that time no other 
work had any attractions for him. 

Edison arrived in Indianapolis before he was eighteen 
years of age, and in a private account-book of the agent 
of the Western Union in that city, there appears, 
entered monthly during the latter part of 1864 and 
the first part of 1865, the name "T. A. Edison." The 
first time it appears it is inscribed in rather bold char- 
acters, but in every other instance the signature is 
small and neat and of that peculiarity of form 
which he ctiltivated for the purposes of rapid pen- 
manship. Edison went to live in Indianapolis about 
the ist of November, 1864, and his office records 
show that at the end of that month he drew a full 
month's salary. 

At that time the Superintendent of the Western 
Union Company in Indianapolis was John F. Wallick. 
This gentleman used to say that he distinctly remem- 
bered his first meeting with Edison. He was walking 
on one of the down-town streets, when a smooth-faced, 
boyish-looking young man stopped him. The young 
man was Edison. The Superintendent recollects noth- 
ing of his appearance to distinguish him from other 


young men, except, perhaps, a face somewhat more 
frank than the ordinary, and a manner that was rather 
hesitating. He had evidently learned before who 
Mr. Wallick was, for he stopped him and asked for 
a position. Mr. Wallick replied in the conventional 

''Come aromid to-morrow and I will see what I 
can do for you." 

The next day, bright and early, young Edison walked 
into the Superintendent's office, ^x. Wallick bade 
him sit down and asked him some questions which 
were evidently satisfactorily answered, and he was 
at once given a position. He was assigned to the 
Union Station, his duties being of ordinary rfespon- 
sibility and relating to the reception of messages as 
well as the flagging of trains. During the time he 
was in Indianapolis he drew seventy-five dollars a 
month, which was about the regulation salary paid in 
those days. While he was at the station Mr. Wallick 
saw very little of him, but one day while sitting in his 
office Edison entered. The Superintendent asked 
him what he wanted, and he replied eagerly : 

''I just came to ask if you would give me some old 
instruments there are about the office." 

The Superintendent told him that he was welcome 
to any that he could find if they were of use to him, 
and he went away highly pleased. A day or two after 
Mr. Wallick went down to the station to take a train. 
He stepped into the operator's room and there on a 
big rough board were spread out the instruments he 
had given to Edison. He did not think much of the 
circumstance at the time, but a few years later, when 
Edison was in the East, and the Superintendent saw 
notices of his discoveries and inventions, the thought 
occurred to him that the foundation, perhaps, for some 


of them might have been laid in Indianapolis. Mr. 
Wallick had no personal remembrance of the inventor 
after the incident at the depot, but twenty years later 
Edison, then a famous man, went back to Indianapolis 
on a holiday, hunted up Mr. Wallick, and the two men 
visited togqther the scenes of the boy-operator's labors 
at the Union Station. 



Edison remained in Indianapolis until February, 
1865, when he resigned his position and commenced 
a wandering life which carried him from state to state 
and from city to city. During this nomadic existencfiT^ 
he arrived in Cincinnati, where he remamea for severaT 
months as a telegraph operator, earning a fair salary, 
but devoting so much of it to the purchase of books and 
electrical instnunents, that little was left to provide 
him with even the necessaries of life. He continued to 
combine his experimental work with hard reading, 
and through this devotion to literature he narrowly 
escaped death at the hands of an over-zealous police- 
man. Edison himself has often told the story of how 
he was shot at as a supposed thief, and the incident is 
worth recalling. It was all due, so he says, to his 
liking for reading. 

''While a telegraph operator in Cincinnati," he 
says, '' I was just as great a reader as in the old days, 
and my salary being small, I used to wander among 
the auction-rooms and pick up a bargain whenever I 
got the chance. One day there was put up to the 
highest bidder a stack of North American Reviews^ 
and, after some desultory offers, I secured the lot for 
two dollars. I carried the parcel — which was heavy 
enough to put on a truck — to the telegraph oflSce, 
arriving there just in time to report At 3 a.m. I was 



free, and shouldering my package, I went down the 
dark street at a pretty lively pace, for I was not only 
anxious to get rid of my burden, but was also very 
desirous to start in reading the books as soon as 

"Presently I heard a pistol shot behind me and 
something whizzed past my ear, nearly grazing it, in 
fact. As I turned, a breathless policeman came up 
and ordered me in tones I didn't fail to hear that time 
to drop my parcel. Evidently hurrying along the dark 
alley-way with my bundle I did look rather a suspicious 
character, and the policeman had concluded that I 
was decamping with property not my own. I stopped 
and opened my package. The policeman looked dis- 
gusted. *Why didn't you halt when I told you?' he 
said. 'If I'd been a better shot you might have got 
killed.' He apologized afterwards when I explained 
to him that it was owmg to my deafness that I didn't 
obey his commands." 

In connection with his telegraphic days in Cin- 
cinnati, Edison tells a story in support of his theory 
that there is no work so mechanioLl as that of a tele- 
graph operator. "One night," he says, "I noticed an 
immense crowd gathering in the street outside a news- 
paper office. I called the attention of the other opera- 
tors to the crowd and we sent a messenger boy out to 
find the cause of the excitement. He returned in a few 
minutes and shouted, 'Lincoln's shot!' Instinctively 
the operators looked from one face to the other to see 
which man had received the news. All the faces were 
blank and every man said he had not taken a word 
about the shooting. 'Look over your files,' said the 
boss to the man handling the press stuff. For a few 
minutes we waited in suspense, and then the man held 
up a sheet of paper containing a short account of the 


shooting of the President. The operator had worked 
so mechanically that he had handled the news without 
the slightest knowledge of its significance." ^ 

From Cincinnati, Edison journeyed to Memphis 
and immediately started for the Western Union Office 
after work. His first appearance there has been de- 
scribed by a writer who claims to have been an operator 
with him in his Tennessee days, and the account is so 
humorous that I cannot refrain from quoting it. 

"He came walking into the office one morning," 
says this unknown author, "looking like a veritable 
hay-seed. He wore a hickory shirt, a pair of butter- 
nut pants tucked into the tops of boots a size too large 
and guiltless of blacking. 'Where's the boss?' was 
his query, as he glanced around the office. No one 
replied at once and he repeated the question. The 
manager asked what he could do for him, and the future 
great one proceeded to strike him for a job. Business 
was rushing and the office was two men short, so almost 
any kind of a lightning-slinger was welcome. He was 
assigned to a desk and a fusillade of winks went the 
rounds of the room, for the new arrival had been put 
on the St. Louis wire, the hardest in the office. At 
the end of the line was an operator who was chain 
lightning and knew it. 

"Edison had hardly got seated before St. Louis 
called. The newcomer responded, and St. Louis 
started on a long report, which he pumped in like a 
house afire. Edison threw his leg over the arm of 
the chair, leisurely transferred a wad of spruce gum 
from his pocket to his mouth, took up a pen, examined 
it critically, and started in about fifty words behind. 
He didn't stay there long though. St. Louis let out 
another link of speed and still another, and the instru- 
'Dickaon's" Edison." 


ment on Edison's table hummed like an old-style Singer 
sewing-machine. Every man in the office left his desk 
and gathered aromid the Jay to see what he was doing 
with that electric cyclone. 

''Welly sir, he was right on the word and taking it 
down in the prettiest copper-plate hand you ever saw, 
even crossing his 't's' and dotting his 'i's/ and punc- 
tuating with as much care as a man editing telegraph 
for rat printers. St. Louis got tired by and by and began 
to slow down. Then Edison opened the key and said : 

'''Hello, there I when are you going to get a hustle 
on ? This is no primer class.' 

"Well, sir," said the gentleman in conclusion, "that 
broke . St. Louis all up. He had been rawhiding 
Memphis for a long tune, and we were terribly sore, 
and to have a man in our office who could walk all 
over him made us feel like a man whose horse had won 
the Derby. I saw the Wizard not long ago. He 
doesn't wear a hickory shirt or put his pants in his 
boots, but he is very far from being a dude yet." 

This account is, of course, exaggerated, and the 
narrator has taken the liberty of tiuning the incident 
into one of a humorous nature, though the main facts \^ 
are correct. Edison at one time in his career was the 
fastest operator in the employ of the Western Union, 
and a constant source of astonishment to every one, 
from the manager down, was the way in which he 
would take the swiftest messages with ease almost 
amounting to indiflference. His remarkably clear 
handwriting might be described as one of his first 
inventions, for he originated it expressly for the purpose 
of taking quick reports. He could, with no apparent 
effort, write forty-five words a minute, sufficifet to take \/ 
down messages from the speediest senders, and had it 
been necessary might have increased his capacity to 




fifty and fifty-five words, and with no decrease in neat- 
ness and legibility. As a sender ]pie was no less remark- 
able, and there were few who could take his messages 
when Edison felt in good condition and his blood was 

But Memphis did not enjoy the society of their 
champion operator for long. Again he lost his job, 
this time, according to Alexander Knapp, a fellow- 
worker, through an exuberance of spirits which scan- 
dalized the Memphis manager, a gentleman.of the name 
of Baker. Knapp and Edison were firm ffldhds and 
would occasionally vbit the theatres and other places of 
amusement together. One evening they went to the 
"Zoo," a variety theatre on Washington Street, where 
they saw a performance of the "can-can" dance, which 
had just then been introduced to Memphis audiences. 
Both operators were delighted with the novel perform- 
ance, and on reaching the office to begin the night's 
work they decided that the time and the place were 
convenient for a trial of the new dance. 'IFor the 
benefit of their co-workers they began to give the "can- 
can" with so much energy that several of the tables 
were knocked over and some of the instruments put out 
of business. In the midst of this scene Mr. Baker ar- 
rived, and, without asking for any explanation, he took 
Edison by one ear and Elnapp by the other, led them 
to the door of the office, and turned them loose into the 
street, telling them that they might continue their per- 
formance there if they liked. Neither Edison nor 
Knapp returned to explain matters, but immediately 
sought fresh fields for the exercise of their apparently 
unappreciated talents. Subsequently Knapp eschewed 
telegraphy, and afterwards became a very prominent 
man in railroad circles. 

Edison decided to try Boston. He had a friend 


there named Milton Adams, and to him he wrote, 
begging him as a favor to find him a job. Adams 
was also a telegrapher, and connected with the Western 
Union oflBce there, and he mentioned the matter to 
G. F. MUliken, the manager, showing him Edison's 
application. The curious handwriting immediately 
attracted Mr. Milliken's attention, and his interest he- 
ing aroused, he inquired if the operator took messages 
from the line and put them down in that shape. Adams 
replied : "Yes, and there is no one who can stick him," 
whereupon Milliken told him to write to his friend, 
and tell him to call upon him, and he would see what 
could be done. Edison took train for Boston im- 
mediately after the receipt of Adams's hopeful letter, 
and a five minutes' interview sufficed for Milliken to 
size the young man up and give him a position. On 
entering the office his retiring manner and eccentricities 
of dress — he was just as untidy as ever — created some 
amysement, but he soon showed such remarkable 
gifts as an operator — no one could touch him even in 
Boston — that amusement turned to admiration, and 
he was looked upon with respect and even veneration. 
Edison had no sooner settled in his new position 
than he opened a small workshop for the perfecting 
of many ideas which were germinating in his busy 
brain, and it was while here that he took out his first 
patent — perhaps the most unfortunate of the many 
hundreds with which his name is associated. This 
was a vote-recording machine, comprising a system 
whereby each member of a legislative body could, by 
moving a switch on his desk to right or left, register 
his name on a sheet of paper under the "ayes" or 
"noes." The paper was chemically prepared, and 
when the circuit was closed an iron roller passed over 
the paper, under which was the type si^iifying the 


member's name. The current passing through the 
chemically prepared paper caused its discoloration 
wherever the type came in contact with it, and the 
name was accordingly printed on the paper. At the 
same time the vote was counted by a dial indicator 
which was operated by the same current. 

This ingenious instrument worked perfectly, and 
the young inventor was in high feather over his wonder- 
fully simple yet adequate system for "purifying" the 
ballot. He had been used to handling press reports, 
and the time taken in counting votes as well as the 
ease with which they could be "manipulated" had sug- 
gested to him the idea for the invention. So he travelled 
to Washington, and after some little delay succeeded 
in exhibiting his instnmient to the Chairman of Com- 
mittees, who, after examining the machine very care- • 
fully, said : "Young man, it works all right and couldn't 
be better. With an instrument like that it would be 
diflScult to monkey with the vote if you wanted to. But 
it won't do. In fact, it's the last thing on earth that we 
want here. Filibustering and delay in the counting 
of the votes are often the only means we have for de- 
feating bad legislation. So, though I admire your 
genius and the spirit which prompted you to invent so 
excellent a machine, we shan't require it here. Take 
the thing away." 

Whereupon Edison moiumfully shouldered his vote- 
recorder and left the committee-room. "Of course I 
was very sorry," said Edison afterwards, "for I had 
banked on that machine bringing me in money. But 
it was a lesson to me. There and then I made a vow ', / 
that I would never invent anything which was not |/ 
wanted, or which was not necessary to the community ; 
at large. And so far I believe I have kept that vow." 

A story which will stick to Edison has reference 


/ %■ 

. i •.!'-- 

/ • OF 



to the way in which he rid the office of cockroaches, 
and the inventor always smiles when the incident 
crops up — as it usually does — if in conversation with 
an interviewer interested in his early days. Says an 
operator who worked with him in Boston: "We were 
terribly bothered and disgusted by the vast army of 
cockroaches that each night formed an entire square, 
with the operators' lunches on the inside. These 
lunches were kept on an unused table, and promptly 
at half -past six ekch night the cockroach legions would 
march upon the old table, ascend the four legs that 
upheld it, and make a raid on sandwiches, apple-pie, 
and other eatables. One night while Edison was wait- 
ing for Washington to start the newspaper specials he 
conceived a plan to annihilate the entire cockroach 

"He said nothing, but when he reported for duty 
the next night he was supplied with a quantity of tin- 
foil and four or five yards of fine wire. Unrolling the 
tin-foil and cutting two narrow strips from the long 
sheet, he stretched them around the table, taking care 
to keep them as near together as possible without 
touching, and fastening them into position with some 
very small tacks. Then he connected the ribbons and 
foil with two heavy batteries and awaited the result. 

"We were all deeply interested and little work was 
done until the advance guard of the cockroach army 
put in an appearance. Now to complete the circuit 
and set this unique little engine of death in operation 
it needed but a single cockroach to cross the dead 
line. One big fellow came up the post at the south- 
east comer of the room and stopped for a moment. 
Then he brushed his nose with his forelegs and started. 
He reached the first ribbon in safety, but as soon as his 
fore-creepers struck the opposite or parallel ribbon over 


he went as dead as a free message. From that time 
imtil after lunch the check boys were kept busy brushing 
the dead insects to the floor. At midnight the cordon 
of defunct beetles around the table looked like a square 
made out of an old rope." 

While in Boston, Adams was Edison's constant 
companion, and the two lived and worked together 
more like brothers than friends. They would wander 
among the old second-hand book stores and pick up 
bargains which Edison would devour when he should 
have been resting. "One day," says Adams in Dick- 
son's "Edison," "he bought the whole of Faraday's 
works on electricity, brought them home at four o'clock 
in the morning, and read steadily until I arose, when 
we made for Hanover Street, about a mile distant 
(where we took our meals) to secure breakfast. Edison's \ 
brain was on fire with what he had read, and he suddenly ' 
remarked to me: "Adams, I have got so much to do 
and life is so short that I am going to hustle," and with 
that he started on a run for breakfast. 

Captain H. M. Anderson, of Kansas City, was an 
operator with Edison at this time, and often met the 
inventor at his little workshop in Wilson Street. Ander- 
son was on day duty, but Edison had a night shift. 
"Where he slept," says Captain Anderson, "I don't 
know, for he worked most of the day down in that little 
machine shop. He never was in time to go on duty, 
He would get to working out some idea, and would not 
think about his job until half an hour after time to re- 
port. Often he got called over the coals by the manager, 
but though he always expressed sorrow he never repented, 
or if he did, he never reformed. He made some gun- 
cotton once from a formula of his own. He had been 
working for weeks on something, but we never ventured 
to ask him what it was. He would not have told us if 


we had. One day I heard him say, ' I don't believe it's 
any good/ and he laid something in a metal case and 
put it on the mantel, back of the stove. It lay there 
for weeks mitil they started a fire, and then there was 
an explosion which blew the front of the stove out. 
We all rushed from the room, Edison leading the 
bunch, and all he said was: 'Well, it was good after 
all.' So I suppose the cause of the explosion was his 
home-made gim-cotton. 

"In the doak-room, where the operators hung up 
their hats and coats, there was a large tank filled with 
ice-water for drinking. Opposite it himg a tin dipper 
on a nail in the wall. Edison, in one of his merry 
moods, connected this nail with a wire at the other 
end of which were 190 cells of Fuller battery. He 
then placed a sign below the dipper requesting all to 
'Please return this dipper.' His request was heeded. 
The dipper was never taken down but there were a 
dozen or more wrenched arms in the office in less than 
an hour. 

''I remember once when Edison bought a new suit 
of clothes. It was not often he spent much money on 
these luxuries, but that time he got a thirty-dollar 
suit. The next Sunday he was experimenting in his 
workshop with a bottle of sulphuric acid. Suddenly 
the bottle exploded and the new suit was ruined. 
'What I get for putting so much money in a suit!' 
was Edison's only comment." 

Edison himself, through the medium of W. K. L. 
Dickson, tells a story of his Boston days which I have 
permission to quote here. It is related at the expense 
of his friend Adams, who, much to his disgust, was the 
principal in the amusing incident. "One day," says 
the inventor, " Milton and I were passing along Tremont 
Row when we noticed a crowd collected in front of two 


dry-goods stores and stopped to see what was the matter. 
It happened that these were rival establishments and 
that each had received a consignment of stockings 
which they were eager to dispose of. Their methods 
were very entertaining. One would put out a sign 
stating that this vast commercial emporium had five 
thousand pairs of stockings to dispose of at the paralyz- 
ing price of twelve cents a pair, an announcement which 
wound up with: 'No connection with the firm next 
door.' In a moment the rival firm would follow suit, 
underbidding the other by one cent at a time, until the 
price was actually reduced to one cent for five pairs 
of stockings. 

"The crowd had been steadily increasing all the 
time, contenting itself with jeering and making merry, 
but showing no avidity to take advantage of these 
tempting bargains. Milton and I hid been agog, 
however, for some time and he now broke out with: 
*Say, Edison, I can stand this no longer — give. me a 
cent,' and on being supplied with this handsome 
financial basis he boldly entered the store, which was 
filled with lady clerks. Throwing down the cent, he 
demanded five pairs of stockings, while the crowd 
excitedly awaited the result. The young lady attend- 
ant surveyed the customer with magnificent disdain 
and handed him five pairs of baby stockings. 'Oh,' 
said my friend, in much discomfiture, *I can't use these.' 
'Can't help it, young man,' was the curt reply; 'we 
don't permit selections at that price.' The crowd 
roared and the commercial struggle soon afterwards 

Many stories have been written regarding Edison's 
first lecture, and it is generally supposed that he was so 
nervous when he foimd himself in front of his audience 
that all he could blurt out was: "Ladies and Gentle- 


men, — Mr. Adams wfll now lecture on electricity 
while I illustrate his remarks with the lantern." This 
is a little exaggeration of what actually happened. His 
first lecture, which took place while he was in Boston, 
was a success, though at the commencement he certainly 
was greatly embarrassed, as was also his partner, Mr. 
Milton Adams. His name as a scientist had become a 
well-known one by this time in Boston, and he bore so 
excellent a character that he was selected by a fashion- 
able ladies' academy to lecture on telegraphy. 

"Immersed in other projects," says Mr. Dickson, 
"he not only neglected to inquire into the sex of his 
audience but totally overlooked the appointment, 
and when summoned by his friend Mr. Adams was 
discovered on the top of a house performing certain 
acrobatic feats connected with the erection of a tele- 
graph wire. Curiously enough, Adams shared his 
colleague's ignorance in regard to the expected ordeal, 
and. possessed, like Eklison, with the belief that the 
audience would be composed of bo)rs, thought it un- 
necessary, in view of the late hour, to devote any time 
to personal adornment. 

"Unsuspiciously they hurried through the streets 
and plunged into the scientific arena, where, to their 
horror and amazement, they foimd themselves con- 
fronted, not by a horde of undisciplined boys, but 
by an assembly of beautifully attired young ladies. 
Confusion descended upon them, their tongues clove 
to the roofs of their mouths, and the upturned sea of 
quizzical faces before them loomed faintly through 
a crimson maze. At last, Edison, possessed of the 
courageof despair, and seeing that Adams was absolutely 
hars de comhaty plimged into an exposition of his subject 
and succeeded, in spite of certain catching sensations 
at the back of the tbroat, in convejyng to the fair scien- 


tists a brief, pleasant, and lucid view of the subject. 
This difl&dence, perhaps, served Edison's cause better 
than a bumptious and self-satisfied glibness would 
have done. From that day the sweet girl graduates 
made a point of recognizing Edison in public and be- 
stowed upon him such smiles as made him a subject 
of envious admiration among his less favored as- 



T HROu qHall his wanderings Edison never lost sight 
I of. the.Qne great object which he had in view, viz., to 
hp^^ij;(^fisfifiil invpntnr^ and during the time that he 
/ was working in th e difiFerent offices of the Western 
) Union his mind was busy with schemes connected with 
teieQ[^hy jQT- which- had-electricity as -a basis, He 
worked alone and no one shared his confidences. Just 
as he is to-day, he never talked of his plans or boasted 
about what he was going to accomplish. Modesty 
and retirement were bom with him and have stuck to 
him now for sixty years. It is a question whether his 
closest friend knew what he had in mind when tinkering 
with those sets of telegraph instruments and electrical 
apparatus on which he spent every cent of his hard- 
earned money. Certainly he confided to no one the 
principle t)f any invention prior to its being perfected, 
and, in fact, very seldom spoke of his own work. When 
he became famous, of course, it was difiFerent, but even 
then he rigidly forbore to make any statement regarding 
an invention which was still in the making. He never 
talks about a device until it is perfected, and then any 
one is quite at liberty to find out anything about it that 
they have a mind to. 

Edison left Boston soon after patenting his vote- 
recorder and went to New York. He had no desire 
to continue his career as a telegraph operator, for it 



interfered too much with his work as an experimenter. 
What he aimed at was to have a laboratory of his own, 
where he could carry out those ideas which were gather- 
ing so thickly in his brain. But he had no money, and 
without capital it was impossible for him to make head- 
way as an inventor. He arrived in New York with 
scarcely sufficient cash to rent a respectable lodging — 
all had gone either in books or apparatus. 

Walking along lower Broadway one* morning, 
soon after his arrival, and wondering whether the time 
would ever come when he would be able to put his 
schemes to a practical test, he turned into Wall Street 
and entered the head office of the Law Gold Indicator. 
These indicators, or "tickers," were distributed among 
five or six hundred brokerage offices and were regarded 
as rather wonderful instruments, though occasionally 
they went wrong and then a messenger from each 
sutecriber would be sent down post-haste to the head 
office tQ inquire what the trouble was and when the 
machines would be working again. The memorable 
morning Eklison happened to look in, for the express 
purpose of discovering whether there was any job in 
his particular line going begging, the indicators had 
struck work and messengers from all parts of the city 
were clamoring to know what was wrong. Excite- 
ment ran high, for gold was dear and moments were 

Mr. Law was in the office, together with a small 
army of workmen, but no one seemed capable of locat- 
ing the trouble. Then Edison, who was standing by and 
seemed mildly interested in the commotion, remarked 
that he thought he could put things to rights, and Mr. 
Law told him to go ahead and see what he could do. 
Whereupon the young man quietly but deliberately 
removed a loose contact spring which had fallen between 


the wheels and immediately the instruments worked as 
chirpily as before. The repairer^ looked foolish and 
Mr. Law requested Edison to step into his office. After 
asking him a few questions, Mr. Law offered him the 
position of manager of the service at a salary of three 
himdred dollars a month. Edison says he nearly 
fainted when told what his remuneration was to be, 
but somehow he managed to keep a straight face and 
accepted* the position with becoming gravity. 

Now that he had an assured income of thirty-six 
himdred dollars a year, Edison immediately opened 
a workshop "down town," and every moment that 
he could spare was devoted to his beloved experi- 
menting. His telegraph and electrical instruments 
were set. out, bottles of chemicals lined the shelves, 
batteries were purchased, and soon the little shop 
really did begin to have the appearance of a bondnfide 
laboratory. Here Edison would work until the "small 
hours" and sometimes . right through the night, for 
from his earliest years he seems to have been able 
to thrive on the minimum amount of sleep. He was 
busy on the duplex telegraph, but for a time he put 
this aside to see what he could do with the gold and 
stock ticker. It did not take him long to discover that 
in its then condition it was little better than useless; 
for in spite of his being manager, the system broke 
down again and again, causing endless trouble to the 

So he determined to impro^^the instrument and 
convert it into a reliable and ^istworthy "ticker." 
As assistant he took into his workshop a man of the 
name of Callahan, a clever mechanic, and the two 
worked early and late to perfect the system. They 
finally succeeded in evolving many important im- 
provements, and the president of the company, 


General Marshall Lefferts, sent for Edison and asked 
him what he wanted for these. The inventor, modest 
in his demands, was about to mention five thousand 
dollars when good sense came to his aid, and he replied 
that he would rather the president made him an offer. 
Thereupon this gentleman mentioned forty thousand 
dollars. Edison opened his mouth to give voice to 
the astonishment he felt at the magnitude of the sum, 
when General Lefiferts, misinterpreting his expression, 
added *that it was as much as he cared to give, and 
so, like a wise man, Edison quietly accepted the hand- 
some sum. 

After a few preliminaries the inventor was subse- 
quently handed a check for the amount agreed upon; 
and as this was the first piece of paper of the kind which 
had ever come into his possession, he was in some per- 
plexity as to what he was to do with it. Finally, he 
went to the bank and tried to cash it, but the paying 
teller, knowing nothing of Ekiison, declined to pay out 
so large a sum until he had been " identified." Edison, 
firmly convinced that he had been "done," was moodily 
leaving the bank when he met an acquaintance, a man 
well known in commercial circles, to whom he told his 
trouble. This gentleman laughed heartily at Edison's 
embarrassment, returned with him to the bank, and 
"identified" him to the satisfaction of the cashier. 
He received the money, "a great stack of it" as he 
afterwards described the big bundle of bills, and then 
he was uncertain what to do with it. He carried it 
about with him for two days, afraid to trust it to a bank, 
and probably no one before or since has ever been so 
inconvenienced by an overplus of wealth. In the end 
a friend persuaded him to open an account at a reliable 
institution, where he eventually deposited his forty 




Pi I 


This was Edison's first real start, though a greater 
triumph came to him when he gained the confidence 
of the president of the Western Union through a break- 
down of the lines between New York and Albany. 
Dr. Norvin Green was president at that time, and he 
himself afterwards declared that it was entirely due 
to his stupidity and that of his associates that the 
corporation was so long in taking advantage of Edison's 
genius. The inventor had called on Dr. Green many 
times for the purpose of asking him to take up his im- 
provements and inventions, but the president "turned 
him down" every time, believing that the schemes 
of so young a man could scarcely be worth serious 
consideration. But Edison did not give up. He knew 
that it was the Western Union that could best handle 
his inventions, and he was determined to exhaust 
every means in his power to persuade the company 
to give him a trial. 

On the occasion of one of these many visits he found 
Dr. Green in a somewhat irascible state of mind, and 
in no mood to discuss inventions with. him. As some 
excuse for his irritability he informed Edison that 
they were unable to get into communication with 
Albany, and that a considerable amount of business 
was being held up. "Perhaps," said Dr. Green, 
"as you know so much about telegraphy, you will 
come to our assistance and fix things up for us." His 
tones were not entirely confident, and some of his 
associates even smiled. But Edison saw his oppor- 
tunity and was quick to make a bargain. 

" Dr. Green," he said, " if I locate this trouble within 
two or three hours, will you take up my inventions 
and give them honest consideration?" The president 
instantly gave his word, and, seeing Edison's eagerness, 
added: "I will consider your inventions if you get us 


out of this fix within two days." Edison made a 
rush for the main office, and, as he was already well 
known there as an expert operator, every one was 
ready to assist him. 

It was not until years after that Edison related how 
he went to work to find out where the trouble lay. 
Here is the story in his own words: "At the main 
office," he says, "I called up Pittsburg and asked for 
the best operator there. When I had got him I told 
him to call up the best man. at Albany, and direct him 
to telegraph down the line toward New York as far 
as he could, and report back to me as soon as possible. 
Inside of an hour I received this telegram: 'I can 
telegraph all right down to within two miles of Pough- 
keepsie, and there is trouble with the wire there.' I 
then went back to the office of the president and told 
him that if a train should be sent to Poughkeepsie 
with materials for the work, they would find a break 
two miles on the other side of Poughkeepsie, and 
could repair it that afternoon." The break was located 
and repaired, and Dr. Green completed his part of 
the contract by considering every invention which 
Edison afterwards brought to him. 

With his first check Edison was enabled to carry 
out a long-cherished plan. He gave up his little shop 
in New York, resigned his position as manager of 
the Gold and Stock Indicator, and opened up a factory 
in Newark, N.J., where he sOon gathered around 
him a small army of assistants. Here he not only 
manufactured his improved "tickers" and sent them 
out in large numbers, but he also busied himself with 
many brilliant and new inventions which began to 
issue from his creative mind in bewildering profusion. 
He had already sold his duplex telegraph to the West- 
em Union, and the company now had a contract with 


him by which they held an option on all his future 
telegraphic inventions. 

The duplex was Edison's first important invention 
connected with electrical telegraphy, and embodied a 
method of multiple transmission which doubled the ca- 
pacity of a single wire. " By this instrument," wrote 
the late Luther Stieringer in his descriptive catalogue 
of the Edison inventions exhibited at the Paris Expo- 
sition of 1889, "two messages can be sent in opposite 
directions at the same time over the same wire with- 
out any confusion or obstruction to each other. The 
attempt to run two trains on the same track in opposite 
directions at the same time is attended with results 
too familiar to need mention, but in duplex telegraphy 
a skilful adjustment of the apparatus at each end of 
the line enables a strictly analogous idea to be put 
into force with the most brilliant success. 

"The principle or electrical fact from which the 
invention is built up is that currents of electricity split 
up and follow any number of paths that may be opened 
to them exactly in proportion to the resistance that 
the wire ojffers to their passage, just as water flowing 
through a set of pipes will fill them in exact proportion 
to their size. The apparatus at each end so embodies 
this principle that each set is unresponsive to the move- 
ments of its own transmitting key, although at the 
same time it responds to every movement of the key 
operated at the distant station. The great feature 
is the use of an artificial line furnished by a rheostat 
and supplemented by a condenser, and balancing the 
real line actually in service, so that the current is 
divided between the artificial line and the real line — 
in the one doing nothing, and in the other carrying 
the impulses that constitute the message." 

Having perfected this invention, which Edison sold 


outright to the Western Union, the inventor decided 
to go one better, and turned his attention to the now 
familiar quadruplex, which he devised in 1874. This 
not only doubled the capacity of a single wire, but 
made possible the simultaneous transmission of two 
messages each way. The principle involved is that 
of working over the line with two currents that differ 
from each other in strength or nature, so that they will 
only affect instruments adapted to respond to just 
such currents and no others. By combining instru- 
ments that respond only to variations in the strength 
of current with instruments that respond only to change 
in the direction of current, and by grouping a pair 
of such at each end of the line, the quadruplex was 
the result. With this invention there are two sending 
and two receiving operators at each end, or eight in 
all, kept busy upon a single wire. 

The value of this invention it is impossible to gauge. 
It has saved the Western Union millions, which they 
would otherwise have had to expend in additional 
wires and their repairs. It has turned a hundred 
thousand miles of wire into four himdred thousand, 
and without any added cost. In other words, for 
every mile of actual wire the quadruplex adds three 
miles of "phantom" wire which perform their work 
just as reliably as though they really existed. For this 
invention Edison received thirty thousand dollars, 
the whole of which he spent in trying to invent a wire 
which would carry six messages. The attempt was 
not commercially successful, so that Edison derived 
little financial benefit from his quadruplex telegraph — 
perhaps the greatest invention ever conceived in con- 
nection with electrical telegraphy. 

Another important invention of Edison's in con- 
nection with telegraphy was his automatic telegraph. 


This instrument required that the message be pre- 
pared in advance. This was accomplished by per- 
forating paper tape with Morse characters, the tapes 
being afterwards run through a transmitter at the 
highest possible rate of speed up to several thousand 
words a minute. In connection with this invention 
a characteristic story is told by his associate Charles 
Bachelor, who was for many years the inventor's right- 
hand man. "In the development of the automatic 
telegraph," Mr. Bachelor said on one occasion, "it 
became necessary to have a solution which would 
give a chemically prepared paper upon which the 
characters could be recorded at a speed greater than 
two hundred words a minute. There were numerous 
solutions in French books, but none of them enabled 
him to exceed that rate. But he had invented a machine 
that would exceed it, and must have the paper to match 
the machine. I came in one night, and there sat Edi- 
son with a pile of chemistries and chemical books that 
were five feet high when they stood on the floor and 
lay one upon the other. He had ordered them from 
New York, London, and Paris. He studied them 
night and day. He ate at his desk and slept in his 
chair. In six weeks he had gone through books, 
written a volume of abstracts, made two thousand 
experiments on the formulas, and had produced a 
solution (the only one in the world) which would do 
the very thing he wanted done — record over two 
hundred words a minute on a wire 250 miles long. 
He ultimately succeeded in recording 3100 words a 

Two other inventions occupied Edison's attention 
during his Newark days. These were the harmonic 
multiplex telegraph and the autographic telegraph. 
The former is a system by which the inventor empbyed 


tuning-forks, or " reeds " actuated by electro-magnets, 
each reed serving as a key to transmit impulses over 
the line, so that the tuning-fork at the other end vibrat- 
ing at the same frequency will analyze the current, 
so to speak, separating and selecting so much of the 
current as belongs to it. A number of tuning-forks 
can be operated at the same time on this principle, 
and as many as sixteen messages have been sent at 
once, or eight each way, by means of this harmonic 
multiplex system. 

The object of the autographic telegraph was to 
reproduce in one place the exact counterpart of a 
message written by the sender in another place. In 
the Edison autographic telegraph the message is writ- 
ten with a pencil on specially prepared paper. This 
paper is soft and spongy, and the pressure of the pencil 
makes a deep indentation in it. The next step is the 
transmission. The message is placed on a cylinder 
revolved by an electric motor, which is in synchronism 
with a similar motor and apparatus at the other end 
of the line, the cylinder of the latter, however, being 
of metal covered with a sheet of chemically prepared 
paper. A delicately adjusted spring is placed against 
the revolving drum at the sending end, and as the spring 
of wire passes over the paper and falls into the inden- 
tations produced in the messages it closes the circuit 
at the distant end of the line, where an iron spring or 
wire decomposes the solution in the chemically treated 
paper on the revolving drum at the exact moment of 
making the circuit. As the pens at each end of the 
line are caused to move downward a trifle at each 
revolution of the drum the entire message is accurately 



Soon after locating in New York and perfecting 
the printing telegraph for gold and stock quotations, 
Edison established a factory at Newark for the making 
of his "tickers," and here he went in extensively for 
experimenting along diflFerent lines. His entire mind, 
however, seems to have been engrossed with telegraphy, 
and he soon brought out the sextuplex transmission 
of messages. As an inventor and patentee he was 
now so well known, and his "applications" at the 
Patent Office were so numerous, that the Commissioner 
on one occasion in an address spoke of Edison as 
"that yoimg man in New Jersey who has made the 
path to the Patent Office hot with his footsteps." 
The public followed his work with the keenest interest, 
and there was scarcely a newspaper in the country 
but recorded from day to day some item of interest — 
either true or false — connected with the energetic 

But Edison soon found that he could not very well 
combine the superintending of the manufacture of 
his various inventions with experimentation, and so 
he went to Menlp Park, and there devoted himself 
entirely to perfecting some of those wonderful schemes 
which were forever passing through his mind. He 
left the Newark factory in the hands of a capable 
manager, and henceforth became known as the "Wizard 



of Menio Park" — a title which stuck to him for many 
years even after removing his laboratory to Orange. 

Just about this time the possibility of employing 
electricity as a means of conveying speech great dis- 
tances — or what was then considered great distances — 
attracted imiversal interest, and many scientists en- 
gaged in the work of solving the fascinating problem. 
The idea, however, was not altogether new, for a 
quarter of a century previously — somewhere about 
1852 -J- Charles Boursel declared that the time would 
come when conversations would be carried on over 
a wire with no greater efiFort than that required in 
ordinary speech. "I have asked myself," he then 
wrote, "if the spoken word itself could not be trans- 
mitted by electricity, in a word, if what was spoken in 
Vienna could not he heard m Paris. Suppose that a 
man speaks near a movable disk, sufficiently flexible 
to lose none of the vibrations of the voice; that the 
disk alternately makes and breaks the connection 
with the battery, you might have at a distance another 
disk which will simultaneously execute the same vibra- 

This was certainly i remarkable prophecy of what 
the telephone wouloT ultimately become, and had 
Boursel possessed the genius required he would doubt- 
less have given us a telephone built on lines almost 
identical with the instrument in use to-day. Boursel's 
idea was acted upon by Philip Reis, of Frankfurt, 
who succeeded in constructing a telephone furnished 
with a receiver which actually did reproduce sounds. 
"And," says a biographer, "had he only understood 
that by adjusting his transmitter so that the contacts 
would remain continuously in contact, he would have 
had an articulating transmitter. Further than this, 
had he connected two of his receivers together and 








used one as a transmitter, speech might have been 
transmitted. With such apparatus of such possibilities 
it does, indeed, seem remarkable that the mere over- 
sight of not having turned a screw a fractional rotation 
on its axis, or of not having connected two particular 
binding posts by a wire, should have shifted the honor 
of having first transmitted articulate speech from the 
shoulders of Reis to those of men living half a genera- 
tion later." Reis's telephone was designed to carry 
music as well as words, and probably in the whole 
history of invention no man ever escaped fame by so 
narrow a margin as Reis. Boursel did not try to turn 
his primitive idea to account, but became supermtendent 
of telegraph lines at Auch, France; and the French 
Government, as some reward for the originality of 
his ideas in connection with telephony, created him 
Chevalier of the Legion of Honor — the only recog- 
nition he ever received. 

In 1875 ^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^P ^^^ question of telephony 
— Alexander Graham BeH, of Salem, Mass., and 
Elisha Gray, of Chicago, 111. — and on February 15, 
1876, two applications were filed with the Commis- 
sioner of the United States Patent Office, both covering 
an invention for " transmitting vocal sounds telegraphi- 
cally." These came from Bell and Gray. The coin- 
cidence was a remarkable one, and, according to the 
Commissioner, without parallel in the annals of the 
Patent Office. When the applications came to be ex- 
amined it was found that practically the same ground 
was covered by both, and therefore, in the granting 
of a patent, it became necessary to determine at what 
hour of the day each paper was filed. The chief clerk 
was put through a verbal examination, and his day- 
book examined, with the result that priority was awarded 
to Bell, who was granted a patent on the 7th of March, 


or less than three weeks after making his application. 
Bell lost no time. He organized a company, which 
he called the Bell Telephone Company, mcorporated 
it in the State of Massachusetts, and the manufacturing 
of instruments commenced. But the telephone at this 
stage was far from perfect, the public regarding it as 
an interesting toy rather than an invention which had 
great commercial possibilities. It was not practical. 

Then Edison's attention was aroused. He saw 
that, if perfected, the telephone would be of colossal 
use in business, and, abandonmg telegraphy for the 
time being, he devoted all his energy and practical 
genius to overcoming those apparently insuperable 
difficulties which had halted Bell in his march towards 
success. Very soon after taking the matter in hand 
Edison invented the carbon telephone transmitter — 
a device which made telephony practical, and without 
which Bell's invention was useless. Bell wanted that 
transmitter, but Edison wouldn't sell the patent. 
And Edison couldn't make any practical use of his 
own transmitter without infringing on some of Bell's 
patents. Edison tried to evolve an entire system of 
his own, but foimd that there were certain Bell inven- 
tions which he must have. Bell attempted to use 
Edison's idea with regard to the carbon transmitter 
in a different way, but it was useless, he "infringed" 
every time. There was a contest between the two 
inventors and neither would give in. Their inventions 
were like certain elements — ^^of very little use apart, 
but of immense value when brought together. Litiga- 
tion followed, but the wisdom of a compromise made 
itself apparent to both electricians, and Edison yielded 
up his transmitter in exchange for certain benefits 
satisfactory to both. 

Bell made considerable money over the telephone. 


not by his j>atent rights, but by getting hold of a lot 
of stock and sticking to it. Before the formation of 
his Telephone Company, however, Bell had a strenu- 
ous time trying to get people interested in his enter- 
prise. So hard up for money was he at one period 
that he offered a friend a half-interest in his inven- 
tion for $2500, but in spite of his assurance that the 
telephone would subsequently do away with the tele- 
graph, the friend declined. To an official in the Patent 
Office Bell offered a tenth interest for $100, which 
was also refused. In fifteen years that tenth interest 
was worth $1,500,000. 

A short time ago Edison was asked to explain his 
connection with the telephone, and with his usual 
modesty he replied: "When I struck the telephone 
business the Bell people had no transmitter, but were 
talking into the magneto receiver. You never heard 
such a noise and buzzing as there was in that old 
machine 1 I went to work and monkeyed around, and 
finally struck the notion of the lampblack button. 
The Western Union Telegraph Company thought 
this was a first-rate scheme, and bought the thing 
out, but afterwards they consolidated, and I quit the 
telephone business." 

Besides his carbon transmitter Edison has done 
much other work in the field of telephony, and the 
receivers and transmitters of various designs which 
he has invented are too numerous to describe in detail. 
Among the many systems which he evolved for the 
transmission of speech, however, may be mentioned 
the water telephone, condenser telephone, elearostatic 
telephone, chemical telephone, various forms of mag- 
netic telephone, inertia telephone, mercury telephone, 
voltaic pile telephone, musical transmitter, and the 
electro-motographic receiver. 


Luther Stieringer, in stating that the electro-moto- 
graph receiver and the carbon transmitter are Mr. 
Edison's most important and valuable contributions 
to telephony, adds that the inventor was the first to 
apply the induction coil to the transmission of speech, 
a factor so important that, without it, telephony on 
a commercial scale would be practically impossible. 
"The variable resistance of carbon under pressure," 
declared the late Mr. Stieringer, "used by Edison in 
other inventions, was again taken advantage of in the 
carbon transmitter. Its operation is briefly as follows : 
A carbon button, held by a light spring against the 
diaphragm, is placed in circuit with the primary wire 
of an induction coil, the battery being in the same 
circuit and the secondary of the induction coil connected 
to the line. When the diaphragm is set in vibration 
by the soimd waves of the voice, constantly varying 
pressure is applied to the carbon button, altering its 
electrical resistance, and producing wide variations 
of current in the primary, and consequently similar 
changes in the induced current set up in the secondary. 
These induced cturents are sent into the line and act on 
the receiver at the distant end. 

"A curious discovery," continues Mr. Stiermger, 
"made by Mr. Edison, and one which he has applied 
in quite a number of his inventions, *is what he calls 
the 'electro-motograph principle.' He found that by 
placing a sheet of rough paper, saturated with certain 
chemical solutions, upon a brass plate connected to 
one pole of a battery, on passing over the paper a 
piece of sheet metal (palladium) connected through a 
telegraph key to the other pole of the battery, when 
he opened and closed the key there was alternately 
friction and slipping of the metal strip on the paper, 
the passage of the ciurent apparently producing a 


lubricating eflfect. This principle was adopted by 
Edison in his motograph relay, which he sold to the 
Western Union Telegraph Company, who, however, 
never put it into extensive practice, as shortly after 
they consolidated with a rival company controlling 
the patent for the electro-magnetic relay. The Edison 
motograph receiver, or loud-speaking telephone, is a 
modification of the electro-motograph, in which a 
cylinder of chalk revolved by a small electric motor 
is employed in place of the strip of chemically treated 
paper. The palladium-faced spring, which rests on 
the chalk, is attached to a mica diaphragm in a reso- 
nator. The current passes from the main line through 
the spring to the chalk and to the battery. The mgen- 
ious instrument produced the voice with remarkable 
power and distinctness, and could be heard perfectly 
by a very large audience. The action of the mstru- 
ment depends upon the variations m adhesion of the 
metallic strip to the chalk cylinder caused by the cur- 
rent coming over the line. As the strip or spring is 
connected to the receiving diaphragm, these variations 
produce corresponding variations- in the diaphragm, 
the voice being reproduced with startling distinctness. 

It is now nearly thirty years since Edison first ex- 
hibited this telephone, and an accoimt of the interesting 
event may not appear out of place. It was first shown 
at Saratoga on the evening of August 30, 1879, the 
event being reported m the New York Tribune as 
follows : 

"The town hall was crowded with people, who 
were all interested and amused in the ediibition and 
description of the new chemical telephone, Mr. Edi- 
son's latest invention. On the platform were Professor 
Barker, Professor A. Graham Bell, Professor Borton, 
and Mr. Edison. President Barker, in a clear, simple, 


and popular way, gave a history of the telephone, and 
an account of the magneto receiver and transmitter, 
the carbon transmitter, and the improvements of the 
original invention. Mr. Edison amiably acted as 
draughtsman, illustrated the characteristics of the 
various machines by diagrams on thf blackboard, 
which aided President Barker in his explanations. 

"Then the comparative powers and qualities of the 
various forms of transmitters were tested for the 
enlightenment of the audience. Mr. Bachelor, Mr. 
Edison's assistant, who is blessed with a most powerful 
and resonant voice, but was afflicted last night with 
a cold in the head, was in a distant room in the build- 
ing, to which the telephone wires were conducted. In 
the first place experiments were tried with the magneto 
transmitter and magneto receiver, and it was shown 
that only one person, and he only when holding the 
receiver to his ear, could hear Mr. Bachelor's vocifer- 
ous remarks and thunderous songs, even though that 
worthy gentleman strained his lungs to the utmost. 
Then the carbon transmitter and the magneto receiver 
were used, and a few persons close to the instrument 
could hear faintly Mr. Bachelor's shouts into the trans- 
mitter. The sounds were much louder than when 
the magneto transmitter was used, but could not be 
heard at all at a little distance from the receiver. 

"Finally the electro-chemical telephone was used 
with brilliant results. Mr. Bachelor's talk, recitations, 
and singing could be heard all over the hall, and the 
audience was delighted with such enchanting novelties 
as *Mary had a little Lamb,' 'Jack and Jill went up 
the Hill,' 'John Brown's Body,' 'There was a litde 
Girl,' and the like. The assembly was spared one 
infliction, however — no selections from 'Pinafore' 
were given. The telephone gave distinctly the sing- 


ing of two and three persons at once, the talk of one 
person and the singing of another at the same time, 
whistling airs on the comet, laughter loud and long, 
repetition of the alphabet and whistling together, 
and many other sounds. 

"Mr. Edispn described the machine which worked 
these wonders and drew a plan of it on the blackboard. 
He said, however, that he was not sure he could make 
it quite dear to his hearers, for he did not understand 
its operation entirely himself. From a diaphragm 
extends an arm at right angles touching the cylinder 
of chalk moistened with a solution of phosphate in 
water. The arm is pressed against the chalk cylinder 
by a little block of rubber, which is pressed upon the 
arm by a screw touched by the finger of the receiver 
of the message, who keeps the cylinder in rotation 
by a little crank. The working of the instrument 
depends upon the principle that the passage of a cturent 
of electricity through a moistened substance prepared 
in the way the chalk cylinder is prepared prevents 
friction. Hence, when the electric waves come from 
the transmitter there is no friction during the passage 
of a wave, and this absence of friction affects the arm 
projecting from the diaphragm, and the diaphragm 
itself vibrates with an intensity greater than all the 
impulse which comes over the wire from the trans- 
mitter. Hence the enfeebling of the current by the 
length of wire that it passes over is made up, and the 
voice of the speaker or singer at the transmitter is 
heard nearly as loudly, or sometimes even more loudly, 
at the receiving instrument than at the transmitter. 
The current, however, does not pass directly from the 
wire leading from the transmitter to the electro-chemical 
apparatus. Owing to some defects in telegraph lines, 
Mr. Edison said that it is necessary to have two coils 


a very short distance apart. The current from the 
transmitter reaches the first coil, and a wave is set in 
motion in the second coil which goes to the chalk 

''Mr. Edison said that he could, if necessary, con- 
struct instruments which would make the sound three 
or four times as loud as any man could shout. Three 
or four years ago he had a somewhat similar instru- 
ment at Saratoga, but moistened paper was used and 
not prepared chalk, and the instrument was imperfect. 
It would not transmit spoken words, but would trans- 
mit music, and a concert was given in New York and 
the music heard on the piazza of the Grand Union 
Hotel by the use of that instrument. 

"The receiving apparatus in the electro-chemical 
telephone has no ear trumpet at the end like the magneto 
receiver. The apparatus is in a small box with a 
crank at the side and a glass front, through which the 
screw passes by which the receiver presses on the arm 
extending from the diaphragm to the chalk cylinder. 
There is a little round hole at the top of the box. The 
inventor showed that it made no difference in which 
direction the cylinder was turned, or whether it was 
turned fast or slow. But if he stopped turning the 
crank the sound stopped the same instant The re- 
ceiver has thus entire control over the message. No 
sound is heard until he begins to turn the crank, and 
the message only continues while the revolution of 
I the cylinder is kept up. 

"Mr. Edison's explanation pleased the people 
greatly. His quaint and homely manner, his im- 
polished but clear language, his odd but pithy expres- 
sions charmed and attracted them. Mr.. Edison is 
certainly not graceful or eloquent. He shuffled about 
the platform in an imgainly way, and his stoopmg. 




swinging figure was lacking in dignity. But his eyes 
were wonderfully expressive^ his face frank and cordial, 
and his frequent smile hearty and irresistible. If his 
sentences were not rounded, they went to the point, 
and the assembly dispersed with great satisfaction at 
having seen and heard the renowned inventor and 
having seen and heard his most recent invention. 
Though the distance between the transmitter and re- 
ceiver was short last night for convenience and to save 
expense of arrangement of wires, the electro-chemi- 
cal telephone can be used at long distances as well as 
other telephones. It is certainly a remarkable instru- 

Edison's manager at the time, Mr. Edward H. 
Johnson, in a statement subsequently given to the 
press, briefly explained how it came about that Edison 
became associated with the perfecting of the telephone. 
"The Bell patent," he said, "preceded Edison's, but 
soon after Eklison improved the telephone by substi- 
tuting the carbon button transmitter. The machine, 
however, was still far from what was required. It 
could not be used in Europe, and besides it involved 
law-suits brought by the Bell Telephone Company 
and defended by the Western Union Telegraph Com- 
pany, which had bought Edison's patents. In this 
strait the English agent telegraphed to Edison : ' You 
must make a new receiver, and dispense with the magr 
net.' That was a difficult imdertaking, for the magnet 
was considered indispensable in every telephone to 
convert sound waves into electric waves and vice 
versd. At last it occurred to him that he might sub- 
stitute moistened chalk with certain chemicals. He 
tried it, and it produced results which delighted him." 

The first practical telephone was exhibited in America 
at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and the 


first recorded telephone message was sent over the 
wire by Professor Bell. It was the recital of Hamlet's 
"To be or not to be," and was spoken to Dom Pedro, 
Emperor of Brazil. The telephone was first shown 
in Europe at the meeting of the British Associatiozi 
in Glasgow, September, 1876, and pronounced by 
Sir William Thomson the greatest of all marvels 
connected with electric telegraphy* 

In an old volume of Chambers's Journal for 1883 
the following incident is recorded regarding one of 
the earliest forms of telephone : " The drum of the 
telephone," says the writer, " is a flat plate which has 
a fundamental note of its own, and it is more ready 
to vibrate in response to this note than to any other. 
Thus, the basic tones in the voice which harmonize 
with this fundamental note come out stronger in the 
telephone than the other tones which do not; and 
hence a certain twang is given to the speaker's voice 
which depends on the dimensions of the plate. Thus 
for men's low voices the plate of a telephone should 
be larger than for the shriller voices of women and 
children. This peculiarity of the instrument was 
amusingly illustrated at the Paris International Elec- 
tric Exhibition of 1881 by Professor D. E. Hughes. 

"As a member of the scientific jury who were report- 
ing on the various exhibits in telegraphy, Professor 
Hughes was examining — along with his colleagues, 
comprising several eminent foreign electricians — a 
telephonic apparatus devised by Dr. Werner Siemens; 
but they could not make it answer to their voices. 
Various names of foreign savants were shouted in 
the mouthpiece of the telephone, but it would not 
respond. At length Professor Hughes, who is an 
accomplished musician, stepped forward and secretly 
ascertained the fundamental note of the telephone by 


tapping its plate. He then turned to his fellow-jurors 
with a smile, and remarked that there was a peculiarity 
about this telephone : it was an Anglophile and would 
only respond to the honored name of Faraday. The 
jurors naturally treated his words with amiable deri- 
sion; but this, however, was sobn changed to wonder 
when, after crying over the names of Franklin, Ohm, 
Volta, Amp^e, and others, the telephone remained 
obstinately uncertain until he pronoimced the magic 
syllables, FAR-A^DAY, to which it joyously responded. 
The word Faraday had simply been spoken by him 
in the same tone of voice as the fundamental note of 
the telephone plate." 

It is frequently declared that there is nothing new 
under the sun, yet it may surprise some readers to 
learn, on the authority of the noted Dr. Bach, that 
the Catuquinary Indians in the valley of the Amazon 
had a system of telephony generations before the trans- 
mission of sound by electricity attracted the attention 
of modem scientists. "I fotmd," wrote Dr. Bach, 
some years ago, in an American geographical maga- 
zine, "that each habitation or malocca occupied by 
the tribe was supplied with a cambarysu, or telegraph, 
which enabled them to communicate with each other. 
The machine consists of a hollow piece of hard palm 
wood filled with sand, hide, resin, and rubber. This 
is struck with a club of wood coated with rubber and 

"There is one of these instruments hidden in each 
malocca, and the maloccas are about a mile distant 
one from the other, and all on a direct line north and 
south. It appears that the instruments are en rapport 
with each other, and, when struck with a club, the 
neighboring ones to the north and south, if not above 
a mile distant, respond to or echo the blow. To this 


an Indian answers by striking the instrument in the 
malocca with which it is desired to communicate, which 
blow in turn is echoed by the instrument originally 
struck. Each malocca has its own series of signals. 
So enclosed is each instrument in the malocca that 
when standing outside and near the building it is 
difficult to hear, but, nevertheless, it is heard distinctly 
in the next malocca a mile distant in the manner in- 
dicated. The Tuchan gave me an example of signalling. 
With a prolonged interval, he twice struck the instru- 
ment with a club, which, as I imderstood, was to indicate 
attention or that a conference was required. This was 
responded to by the same instrument as a result of a 
single blow given by some one on the next apparatus 
a mile distant Then commenced a long conversation 
which I could not comprehend. So, long before we had 
our telephone connecting house to house, these remote 
Indians of South America had got what served some- 
thing of the same purpose." 

Some time ago Edison was interviewed on the subject 
of telephoning across the sea. Apparently the inventor 
does not think this very probable, for he said : " I do 
not believe we shall ever be able to telephone across the 
Atlantic owing to the electrification of the gutta-percha 
covering of the cable. Every substance will electrify 
somewhat, so the difficulty will not be overcome by 
discarding what is now used. Between Valencia and 
Heart's Content the tons of gutta-percha on the cable 
play a large part in its operation. Every bit of it has to 
be electrified before a single signal can be sent. And 
when the current is cut off at Valencia after being 
operated it still continues to flow into Heart's Content 
for a comparatively long time afterwards. This all 
interferes with the sound waves. Even in telegraphing 
there is no real break between flashes, and there are only 


ten or twelve sound waves per second. In telephoning 
there would be two or three thousand in the same time. 
The only way to get over it would be to employ some 
other force that would not affect surrounding matter." 

The question whether the voice causes vibration in 
the telephone has often been asked, and a short time 
ago the matter was fully discussed in the press. On 
the question being put to Albert H. Walker, the well- 
known American electrician, he replied: "In Bell's 
original telephone the human voice did cause the line to 
vibrate electrically though not mechanically; but that 
telephone could propagate electrical vibrations only a 
few hundred feet at most. The telephone in actual 
use to-day is the Edison variable resistance transmitter. 
In that system the voice supplies none of the energy 
that traverses the wire. The energy is supplied by a 
battery or a dynamo sending a constant current over 
the line. The voice merely vibrates the little diaphragm 
in the transmitter, and the vibration simply moves a 
little bit of carbon in the transmitter into more or less 
contact with another little bit of carbon. That slight 
movement varies the electrical resistance of the circuit 
and thus causes the current from the dynamo to vary 
in strength. The voice does not make the line wire 
vibrate any more than a locomotive engineer pulls a 
train of cars with his arm when he moves the lever 
that lets the steam into the cylinder of his engine." 

Considerable speculation has been indulged in as 
to the origin of the expression "Hello!" as applied 
to telephonic conversation. Mr. F. P. Fish, president 
of the American Telephone Company, .gives the credit 
to Edison. "Years ago," says Mr. Fish, "when the 
telephone first came into use people were accustomed 
to ring a bell and then say, ponderously: *Are you 
there?' *Are you ready to talk?' Well, Mr. Edison 


did away with that awkward un-American way of doing 
things. He caught up a receiver one day and yelled 
into the transmitter one word — a most satisfactory, 
capable, soul-satisfying word — 'Hello!' It has gone 
clear around the world. The Japs use it; it is heard 
in Turkey; Russia could not do without it, and neither 
could Patagonia." 

It might here be remarked that Edison is also credited 
with coining the word "filament," a term first used in 
connection with his incandescent electric light S3^tem. 
On one occasion, during the progress of a suit brought 
by certain infringers of his electric light patents in Eng- 
land, the London Electrician declared that it did not 
know what a "filament" was. It said: "If Edison 
had no other claim to immortality — and most people 
believe he is essentially well provided in this respect — 
he still, we think, deserves all the credit which has ever 
been awarded him for his invention of the definition- 
defying term * filament.' The highest available forensic, 
judicial, and scientific skill of this age and coimtry 
have been brought to bear upon the question, and that 
not once only, but over and over again; and still, as 
Judge Cotton plaintively remarks this week, we seem 
to be nd nearer knowing what a filament really is. His 
Lordship inclines to think that it must be something 
which 'is formed before carbonization,' but this only 
serves to show how far a reconciliation of legal subtilities 
and technical absurdities may remove the final issue 
from the category in which he who nms may read. For 
if this be indeed the definition of a 'filament,' then our 
admiration for the inventor of the term will be more than 
ever profound." 

During his investigations in telephony, and about 
the time when he had perfected his transmitter, Edison 
was frequently called upon to supply telephone experts 


— the requests coming from all parts of the world. 
Before sending out a man, however^ he had a novel 
method of testing his capabilities — a system of ex- 
amination which, if he passed, usually satisfied both 
Edison and his patron. "First of all," the inventor 
stated on one occasion to a writer in the Electrical 
Review^ "we rigged up some telephones in the shop, 
and did all sorts of things with them. I would stick 
the point of a jack-knife through the insulation in spots 
and cut a wire, and in various ways induce 'bugs' 
(in electrical parlance, somethmg difficult to find) 
into these instruments ; then the boys were set to work 
to find out what was the matter with them. If a 
fellow could find out ten times inside of ten minutes 
what the various troubles were he got his passage paid 
to the place where his services were required, and was 
started. About one out of three of the boys managed 
to stand this test, and I believe that every one of them 
who went abroad made money." 

As has already been stated, it was at the time of the 
invention and exhibition of the telephone that Edison 
was first referred to as the "Wizard of Menlo Park," 
and more was written about him, perhaps, than about 
any other celebrity. The public was amused as well 
as interested in hundreds of details published regard- 
ing the inventor — some of them true, but alas ! the 
greater proportion false. Pick up any periodical or 
newspaper of the time and you will find innumerable 
notes about Edison which will astonish you almost 
as much as they astonished the inventor himself. 
Mr. Fox, a magazine writer of some prominence, pub- 
lished in Scribner^s for 1879 several articles dealing 
with the work of Mr. Edison, in the course of which 
he states that when true facts regarding the inventor 
ran out the United States liUeraUurs began the work 


of drawing upon their imaginations. ''The hero of 
their labors," wrote Mr. Fox, "assumed all sorts of 
forms. Now he was a scientific hermit shut up in a 
cavern in a small New Jersey village, holding little or 
no intercourse with the outside world, working like 
an alchemist of old in the dead of night, with musty 
books and curious chemicals, and having for his im- 
mediate companions persons as weird and mysterious 
as himself. Again he was a rollicking, careless person, 
highly gifted in matters scientific, but deplorably 
ignorant of everything else, a sort of scientific Blind 
Tom. Especially was he credited with the most 
revolutionary ideas concerning Nature. One Western 
journal represented him as predicting a complete over- 
throw of nearly all the establbhed laws of Nature: 
water was no longer to seek its level; the earth was 
speedily to assume new and startling functions in the 
xmiverse; everything that had been learned concern- 
ing the character of the atmosphere was based on error; 
the sun itself was to be drawn up in ways that are dark, 
and to be made subsidiary to innumerable tricks that 
are vain; in short, all Nature was to be upset." 

A somewhat saner description of the inventor, 
published at the same time, came from the pen of a 
Mr. Bishop, who had frequent opportunities of study- 
ing the "Wizard." But neither could he resist the 
temptation of surrounding him with a kind of myste- 
rious nimbus, to which Edison himself declares he 
never had any real right. " Of the number of persons 
in the laboratory," wrote Mr. Bishop, "remark one you 
may have least thought of selecting from the informality 
of his appearance. It is a figure of perhaps five feet 
nine inches in height, bending above some detail of 
work. There is a general appearance of youth about 
it, but the face, knit into anxious wrinkles, seems old. 


The dark hair, beginning to be touched with gray, falls 
over the forehead in a mop. The hands are stained 
with acid, and the clothing is of an ordinary ready- 
made order. It is Edison. He has the air of a me- 
chanic, or, more definitely, with his peculiar pallor, 
of a night printer. His features are large; the brow 
well shaped, without imusual developments; the eyes 
light gray, the nose irregular, and the mouth displaying 
teeth which are also not altogether regular. When he 
comes up his attention comes back slowly as though it 
had been a long way off. But it comes back fully and 
gradually and the expression of the face, now that it 
can be seen, is frank and prepossessing. A cheerful 
smile chases away the grave and somewhat weary look 
that belongs to it in moments of rest. He seems no 
longer old. He has almost the air of a big, careless 
schoolboy released from his desk." 

From such a description as this one would suppose 
that the author were writing of a man bordering on 
old age, or at least nearing the seamy side of middle 
life. Yet at the time Edison was barely thirty and, 
according to those who were his associates, was just as 
full of fim, just as fond of a good story, just as genial 
and light-hearted as he was when a boy, or as he is 
to-day. But it was the fashion then to write of him in 
this strain, and the temptation to keep up the fashion 
was yielded to, even by those who knew him sufficiently 
well to describe him (had they wished to do so) as he 
really was. The public had taken it into its head that 
he was a real wizard, and the newspapers, at all events, 
took no steps towards dispelling the general belief. 

It may not be altogether out of place here to record 
a few facts respecting telephony as it is to-day — facts 
which were related by Mr. F. P. Fish recently in an 
address delivered before the Beacon Society. It may, 


for instance^ appear somewhat curious to the lay mind 
that the energy required for a single incandescent electric 
light burner is 5,000,000 times as great as that required 
to send a telephone message a thousand miles, and that 
the energy required to lift a weight of thirteen oimces 
is sufficient to operate a telephone for 240,000 years. 
The number of telephone subscribers in the States 
(the real home of the telephone) had, in 1905, more 
than doubled during three years over the total of the 
previous twenty-four years. 

The telephone, Mr. Fish declared, would soon 
exceed the mail in the number of messages per day. 
To meet all the requirements of the service one million 
trees a year are necessary for poles, and the average 
cost of every class of message is 2.2 cents, which is not 
much more than the average cost of messages by mail. 
In 1902 twelve telephones for every hundred of the 
population in the United States were considered the 
maximum that it was possible to supply. Now the 
telephone people are looking ahead to a maximum of 
twenty for every hundred. The last report of the 
original Bell Company showed the existence of 4,080 
exchanges and branch offices connecting 30,000 cities, 
towns, and villages, and requiring the constant use of 
3,549,810 miles of wire. Through these wires travels 
a yearly total of over 3,500,000,000 telephone calls, 
handled by over 20,000 switchboard operators. 

At Cortlandt Street, New York, may be seen the 
biggest telephone-wire switchboard in the world. It 
is 256 feet long, in the shape of a horseshoe, and cost 
$100,000. This remarkable apparatus was installed 
about a year ago, taking the place of an old one which 
had become inadequate, and although the substitution 
involved the connecting and disconnecting of more 
than nine thousand wires, the change from the old board 


to the new was completed in two hours. This switch- 
board was the first to be supplied with small incandes- 
cent lamps, which glow while the subscribers are talking 
and which become dark when the receiver is hung up. 
By this means the instant the line is no longer in use 
the fact is automatically and silently indicated. On 
this switchboard there are 14,000 of these electric bulbs. 
Two himdred and forty-six operators attend to the 
wants of 9300 subscribers, and the board provides for 
470,000 connections, while there are 1000 incoming 
trunk lines and 840 outgoing. 

The telephone has made its way even into the depths 
of the great forests, and to-day lumbermen are able to 
commimicate with the outer world though they may 
be separated from it by hundreds of miles of solid 
timber. In the huge forest belts of the old and new 
worlds numerous telephones have, diu:ing the last few 
years, been installed, and it is now declared by those 
whose interests are centred in the lumber trade that the 
time is not far distant when telephonic communication 
may be had with every mile of forest where loggers 
are employed. 

These telephones not only save an immense amotmt 
of time in the matter of communication and with the dif- 
ferent camps, but are also of inestimable value in cases 
of accident. It is related that soon after the first wires 
were installed in the forests of Vancouver a party of 
three men were bringing down a "two-hundred-footer" 
when by some means it partly fell upon two of them, 
pinning the victims to the ground, but not seriously 
injuring them. The third man did his best to liberate 
his companions, but finding this impossible he com- 
mimicated with the nearest camp by 'phone and was 
thus able to summon help, which arrived in a few hours. 

In the forests of Montana many telephone boxes 


have been fixed to the trees, and these are being in- 
creased so speedily that soon every logger will be able 
to communicate with the mills at any hour of the day, 
and also speak with the men who overlook the floating 
of the timber down the great rivers. Moreover, tele- 
phone wires are now being slung along the banks of 
these big waterwa3rs, and by this means of quick and 
easy commtmication it is believed that the big log- 
jams which are so constantly occurring will be avoided. 

Before the adoption of the telephone in the big 
Canadian and American forests, each lumber company 
was obliged to keep a large force of men always travel- 
ling from camp to camp, carrying instructions and 
messages from the mills; and, though they sometimes 
covered thirty miles in a day (remarkably rapid progress 
when one remembers the density of these forests), 
much time was lost. Now, with the help of a few 
telephone wires, the same thing may be accomplished 
in a few minutes and at much less cost. Most of the 
logging camps in Montana and other states are now 
"rung up" at appointed times, the foreman receives 
his instructions over the wire, messages are exchanged, 
and the loggers, being allowed the use of the 'phone at 
intervals, thereby feel that they are not so entirely cut 
ofif from their families as formerly. 

Many of these lumbermen remain in the forests 
for a year at a time, and the camps are frequently 
one hundred and one htmdred and fifty miles from civil- 
ization. During these twelve months they never see 
their families and, formerly, seldom had any communica- 
tion with them. For six months out of the twelve they 
are, perhaps, snowed in, and could not make their way 
to the frontier if they wished. Consequently the tele- 
phone has been hailed with delight by these men. By 
its means they are able to receive letters from their 
wives very frequently, for the owners of the big mills 


have made arrangements whereby any logger's wife 
may send a letter to headquarters and have the contents 
telephoned to the camp where her husband b stationed. 

By means of the telephone, doctors are now enabled 
to visit patients without leaving their consulting rooms. 
Deaf people need no longer make their infirmity an 
excuse for staying away from church, for many places 
of worship are providing a number of pews with re- 
ceivers and transmitters in direct conmiunication with 
the pulpit The telephone is a safeguard against 
burglars and thieves, and almost as sure a preventer of 
crime as the electric light. In England, and Europe 
generally, the telephone is still in a somewhat primitive 
state, while in America it has long since been brought 
to a high degree of perfection. 

To give some idea of the ease with which the system 
works in the United States, a recent "long-distance" 
banquet may be mentioned, where members of an 
Alumni Association held simultaneous telephone din- 
ners in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and Portland, 
Oregon. As it takes twenty-eight hours' continuous 
and rapid railroad travelling to get from New York 
to St. Louis, and several days to go from coast to coast, 
it says a good deal for the excellence of the telephone 
service when it is stated that no hitch occurred over 
any part of the line, and that the voices of those who 
proposed and responded to the various toasts in the four 
cities mentioned, were as clear and distinct as though 
the speakers had been all in the one room. Eighty 
receivers and transmitters were arranged on the tables 
of each banquet, and the honor of proposing the first 
toast was rdegated to Mr. William S. Curtis, of St. 
Louis, Mr. Grant Beebe, of Chicago, responding. 
Toast followed toast alternately, the last health being 
drunk at midnight, at which hour good-nights were 
said and the receivers himg up. 



The genesis of the electric light is thus given in 
Edison's own simple words: "In 1878," he says, "I 
went down to see Professor Barker, at Philadelphia, 
and he showed me an arc lamp — the first I had seen. 
Then a little later I saw another — I think it was 
one of Brush's make — and the whole outfit, engine, 
dynamo, and one or two lamps, was travelling around 
the coimtry with a circus. At that time Wallace and 
Moses G. Farmer had succeeded in getting ten or fif- 
teen lamps to bum together in a series, which was con- 
sidered a very wonderful thing. It happened that at 
the time I was more or less at leisure, because I had 
just finished working on the carbon-button telephone, 
and this electric-light idea took possession of me. It 
was easy to see what the thing needed : it wanted to be 
subdivided. The light was too bright and too big. 
What we wished for was little lights, and a distribution 
of them to people's houses in a manner similar to gas. 
Grovemor P. Lowry thought that perhaps I could 
succeed in solving the problem, and he raised a little 
money and formed the Edison Electric Light Company. 
The way we worked was that I got a certain sum of 
money a week and employed a certain number of men, 
and we went ahead to see what we could do. 

"We soon. saw that the subdivision never could be 
accomplished unless each light was independent of 



every other. Now it was plain enough that they could 
not bum in series. Hence they must bum in multiple 
arc It was with this conviction that I started. I 
was fired with the idea of the incandescent lamp as 
opposed to the arc lamp, so I went to work and got some 
very fine platinum wire drawn. Experiment with this, 
however, resulted in failure, and then we tried mixing 
in with the platinum about 10 per cent of iridium, but 
we could not force that high enough without melting it. 
After that came a lot of experimenting — covering the 
wire with oxide of cerium and a number of other things. 

**Then I got a great idea. I took a cylinder of 
zirconia and wound about a himdred feet of the fine 
platinum wire on it coated with magnesia from the 
syrupy acetate. AVhat I was after was getting a high- 
resistance lamp, and I made one that way that worked 
up to 40 ohms. But the oxide developed the phenom- 
ena now familiar to electricians, and the lamp short- 
circuited itself. After that we went fishing around and 
trying all sorts of shapes and things to make a filament 
that would stand. We tried silicon and boron, and a 
lot of things that I have forgotten now. The funny part 
of it was that I never thought in those days that a car- 
bon filament would answer, because a fine hair of car- 
bon was so sensitive to oxidation. Finally, I thought I 
would try it because we had got very high vacua and 
good conditions for it. 

"Well, we sent out and bought some cotton thread, 
carbonized it, and made the first filament. We had 
already managed to get pretty high vacua, and we 
thought, maybe, the filament would be stable. We 
built the lamp and turned on the current. It lit up, 
and in the first few breathless minutes we measured 
its resistance quickly and found it was 275 ohms — 
all we wanted. Then we sat down and looked at that 


lamp. We wanted to see how long it would bum. 
The problem was solved — if the filament would last. 
The day was — let me see — October 21, 1879. We 
sat and looked, and the lamp continued to bum, and 
the longer it bumed the more fascinated we were. 
None of us could go to bed, and there was no sleep for 
any of us for forty hours. We sat and just watched 
it with anxiety growing into elation. It lasted about 
forty-five hours, and then I said, 'If it will bum that 
nimiber of hours now, I know I can make it bum a 
hundred.' We saw that carbon was what we wanted, 
and the next question was what kind of carbon. I 
began to try various things, and finally I carbonized 
a strip of bamboo from a Japanese fan, and saw that 
I was on the right track. But we had a rare hunt 
finding the real thing. I sent a schoolmaster to Sumatra 
and another fellow up the Amazon, while William H. 
Moore, one of my associates, went to Japan and got 
what we wanted there. We made a contract with an 
old Jap to supply us with the proper fibre, and that man 
went to work and cultivated and cross-fertilized bamboo 
imtil he got exactly the quality we required. One 
man went down to Havana, and the day he got there 
he was seized with yellow fever and died in the after- 
noon. When I read the cable message to the boys, 
about a dozen of them jumped up and asked for his 
job. Those fellows were a bright lot of chaps, and 
sometimes it was hard to select the right ones.'' 

That is the whole history of the invention of the 
incandescent light according to Edison's modest 
statement in an old number of the Eledrical Review. 
His thirteen months of imwearied experimenting with 
different metals in his search for a suitable filament — 
carbon points he had hardly considered for a moment 
— were forgotten, but some accoimt of those days of 


anxiety, dejection, hope, and final triumph must be 
given lest the reader come to the erroneous conclusion 
that the invention of incandescent electric lighting was 
the thing of ease Edison would have us suppose. Had 
any other man encoimtered the difficulties — or half of 
them — that Edison did, we should still be reading by 
gas and studying by candle-light. From the moment 
he took the problem in hand he had no faintest doubt 
of being able to solve it, and to this, probably, is due the 
fact that however many disappointments he met with, 
he was never really down-hearted or despairing. 

As Edison has stated, at the time that the question 
of electric lighting first occurred to him he was more 
or less a man of leisure, having just completed his 
carbon telephone. Moreover, he had lately returned 
from a vacation spent in the Rockies, feeling particu- 
larly fit and ready to solve any scientific problem which 
might suggest itself. After viewing the Brush light 
and determining that the chief and primary difficulty 
was one of distribution, he thought long and seriously 
before deciding which system he should adopt — the 
incandescent or the voltaic arc. Finally, he decided 
that the former was the more practical. 

Then commenced those long months of experi- 
menting with platinum wire — weary months spent in 
trying to find some means of preventing this hardest 
of all metals from melting when the full current of 
electricity was turned on. Some of these experiments 
and the difficulties he encountered are touched upon in 
the chapter devoted to a lecture delivered by Exiison in 
1879. Many devices were invented in order to prevent 
the platinum fusing, among others being an automatic 
lever which regulated the current when the platinum ap- 
proached the melting-point. This was soon discarded, 
as was also a diaphragm invented for the same purpose. 


At this period of his investigations Edison publicly 
stated that he felt no doubt of his being able to make 
the electric light available for all common uses, and that 
he would ultimately supply it at a cost below that of 
gas. "There is no difficulty," he said, "about dividing 
up the current and using small quantities at different 
points. The trouble is in finding a candle that will give 
a pleasant light, not too intense, which can be turned 
off and on as easily as gas. Such a candle cannot be 
made from carbon points, which waste away, and must 
be regulated constantly while they do last. Some 
composition must be discovered which will be luminous 
when charged with electricity and that will not wear 
away. Platinum wire gives a good light when a certain 
quantity of electricity is passed through it. If the 
current is made too strong, however, the wire will melt. 
I want to get something better. I have a chemist at 
work helping me to find the composition that will be 
made luminous by electricity. We shall discover it in 

Edison had already made application for a patent 
in connection with what may be called his new plati- 
num light, and the London papers were among the 
first to obtain a copy of the specifications. They 
scarcely met with approval by the British press. " This 
document," declar^ one journal, "reveals for the first 
time authoritatively the line on which Edison is experi- 
menting. It reveals nothing new, however, for in one 
manner and another the substantial facts in regard to 
Edison's experiments had all been obtained previously. 
The Edison lamp, it appears, is a piece of metal which 
may be platinum, rhodium, titanium, ormium, or any 
other very infusible metal fashioned into a coil, helix, 
ribbon, plate, or any other form, and made incandescent 
The current is regulated by a metal bar through which 


it passes. This bar expands when the current is too 
strong, and shirnts or short-circuits the flow of electricity. 
Or it may be regulated by the operation of a diaphragm 
which is acted upon by the expansion of the air or gas 
enclosed in a tube. This is all that Edison's speci- 
fication aims at, so far as the apparatus of the lamp 
is concerned, and scientific men may judge for them- 
selves as to the probable success of the Edison light. 
The weak point of the lamp is this, that in order to be 
luminous, platinum must be heated almost to the 
point of melting. With a slight increase in the current, 
the lamp melts in the twinkling of an eye, and in practice 
the regulator is found to short-circuit the current too 
late to prevent the damage. It is this difficulty which 
mukt be overcome. Can it be done?" 

An English scientific publication, commenting upon 
the document, also attempted a prophecy. It said: 
"All anxiety concerning the Edison light may be put 
on one side. It is certainly not going to take the place 
of gas, and its invention would not have been regarded 
with the anxiety and interest which have been displayed 
had it not been for the statements of newspaper report- 
ers on the other side of the Atlantic. In thewhole speci- 
fication we have not one word concerning any new 
or extraordinary contrivance for dividing the electric 

During the time that Edison was making his investi- 
gations towards discovering a means for dividing the 
electric current, and rumors were thick that he had 
solved the problem long before he applied for a patent, 
the leading scientific men of America and Europe 
strenuously declared it to be impossible. A committee 
was appointed by the British Parliament to examine 
into the general subject, and they called before them as 
witnesses nearly all the prominent scientists of the day. 



With the exception of Professor Tyndall they testi- 
fied that, in their opinion, the subdivision of the 
electric light was a problem beyond the power of man 
to solve. Professor Tyndall said he would scarcely go 
so far as that — he would not say it was absolutely 
impossible but he would not like to undertake its 

But there was one man, at least, who never doubted 
but that Edison would accomplish what he had set out 
to do. This was Grovemor P. Lowry, who had been 
one of the first to encourage Edison in his electric 
lighting investigations, and had been instrumental in 
getting together the necessary funds to enable him to 
carry on his researches. Mr. Lowry followed Edison's 
progress step by step with unabated interest, and spent 
much of his time at the Menlo Park laboratory. When 
newspaper men couldn't get hold of Edison they bore 
down on Lowry, and obtained from him just as much 
information as he and the inventor considered it was 
desirable they should know. Lowry kept a wide-open 
eye on the newspapers, and was constantly correcting 
misstatements which appeared from time to time in 
the American press. One of his many interesting 
letters, addressed to a New York paper, is before the 
writer at the moment, and as it bears on Edison's 
investigations in connection with the electric light it is 
here reproduced as a document of considerable con- 
temporary interest: 

" Dear Sir, — Your colxmms this morning contain 
the following, which you will undoubtedly be glad to 
correct : 

<< 'It is understood that Mr. Edison is suffering from ill-health, 
and has given up his experiments with the electric light* 


"My relation to Mr. Edison in respect to his in- 
ventions and discoveries in electric lighting gives me 
opportunity to know the truth about these matters, 
and the public interest concerning them makes it seem 
a duty to correct statements which I know to be erro- 
neous. Mr. Edison's ill-health I learn indirectly from 
his family physician, Dr. Leslie Ward, and directly 
from Dr. E. L. Keyes, who visited him professionally 
two weeks ago at Menlo Park, was of a temporary 
character and not at all serious. For two weeks past 
Mr. Edison has been daily and nightly, as usual, at 
work in his laboratory upon the electric light. I spent 
several hours with him a few days since. He seemed 
in the highest spirits and in excellent health, and very 
enthusiastic over the results of his work in electric 
lighting. Since the state of progress in this work is of 
interest to the public I may avail myself of this occasion 
to state my view of the matter as it now stands, promis- 
ing that I am not an expert. 

"Mr. Edison first discovered some months since 
his new methods of dividing the electric light, or, in 
other words, of taking the electric current which, 
by long-known methods, produces (through incan- 
descence and slow combustion of carbon pencils) 
a single light equal, say, to 4000 candles, and (passing 
it over an extended wire) distributing it at numerous 
points so as to yield at each point a separate light of, 
say, fifteen candles — the ordinary gas-burner power. 
He then devised a form of lamp intended, in connection 
with other devices, to enable him to produce with the 
same current such a number of separate lights that the 
sum of these divided lights would equal the sum of a 
single light produced by the carbon. 

"His first invention, as it will appear in the first 
patents to be issued, will but inadequately show the 


novel discoveries and devices which he has made even 
to this time, when, according to his own views, he is 
comparatively only upon the threshold of a new and 
wonderful development of electrical science. In the 
meantime, the proper exhibition of what has already 
been invented, as well as the study of the economical 
questions involved, require the erection of large build- 
ings, engines, etc., which is now going on with the utmost 
rapidity. Pending their completion Mr. Edison, far 
from having given up his experiments, is pursuing the 
great variety of them with his customary energy and 
even more than his customary good fortune. 

"In the meantime there is an interest somewhere 
to set on foot false reports affecting Mr. Edison's light, 
one of which, recently circulated in an up-town club, 
I beg space to correct. It was stated that an official 
paper emanating from the British Patent Office had 
been seen which denied a patent to Mr. Edison. The 
author of the report would, perhaps, have been more 
carefxil had he known that the legal period fixed for 
the issue or denial of such a patent has not yet been 
reached, and that the existence of such a paper at this 
time is, therefore, impossible." 

Soon after the publication of Mr. Lowry's letter, 
Edison came to the conclusion that pure platinimi 
was not — and never would be — suited to the pur- 
poses of successful electric lighting, and he therefore 
incorporated with it another material of a non-conduct- 
ing nature, so that when the electric current was turned 
on one substance became incandescent while the other 
became luminous. By this means he obtained a very 
excellent, but not a permanent, light. Then, thinking 
more light-giving surface was needed, he covered 
many yards of platinum wire with a non-conductmg 


material, ''bunched" it together, placed it in a vacuum, 
and turned on the current, but the experiment was 
a dismal failure. More regulators were invented, 
more materials tried, more schemes put to the test, 
and — more disappointments the result. But the 
greater the failure the less Edison felt inclined to give 
up the fight. He argued that when everything had 
been tried and discarded, then what remained must 
be the right solution. And all the time he was a 
monument of encouragement to his associates — always 
good-humored, always cheerful, always certain that 
the next day would see the victory. 

Thirteen months had passed, thirteen months 
of tireless investigation, and at last Edison became 
convinced that he was on the wrong track. Plati- 
nimi and all metals must be abandoned. But what 
was left? He was groping about in search of a finger- 
post that should point to the right path, and he couldn't 
find one. And then the secret was suddenly revealed 
to him in a way which clearly indicated that Nature, 
having enjoyed her year's sport, had at last made up 
her mind to reward the sturdy investigator for his 
courage by acting generously towards him. And 
the way she performed this gracious act is probably 
known to every reader, yet the story is worth retelling. 

The inventor was seated in his laboratory alone 
one evening, a little serious over his thousand-and- 
one disappointments, though by no means crushed 
in spuit, and, as usual, thinking deeply, when his 
right hand, which lay idly upon the table, strayed 
towards a little pile of lampblack mixed with tar which 
his assistants had been using in connection with his 
telephone transmitter. Picking up a modicum of 
this substance he began rolling it between his finger 
and thumb, still wondering what one thing he had 


forgotten which should make the electric light possible, 
and little dreaming that it lay between his fingers. 
For perhaps half an hour he continued to ponder and 
at the same time to roll the mixture, until at last he 
had obtained a thin thread not unlike a piece of wire 
in appearance. He looked at it idly, and then began 
to speculate on its possibilities as a filament for an 
incandescent lamp. It was carbon, of course, and, 
this being so, might have strength to withstand the 
electric current to a greater degree than platinum 
itself. He determined to put it to the test, and at 
once began the work of rolling out fine threads of the 
black composition preparatory to placing them in 
the lamps. 

At no time during his investigations had Edison 
been so well equipped for trying the virtues of carbon 
as at that moment. His experiments with platinum 
had all tended towards the production of a vacuum 
in a tube that was almost perfect — only one-millionth 
part of an atmosphere being left behind. Such a 
vacuiun had never before been thought of, and there- 
fore a better test to decide the properties of carbon 
as a conductor of light was hardly possible. With 
the assistance of his associate, Charles Bachelor, 
a thread of the lampblack and tar was placed in a 
bulb, the air exhausted, and the current tiimed on. 
A good light was the result, but it did not last — the 
carbon soon burnt out. But it had glowed with an 
intensity sufficient to prove that the inventor was at 
last on the right road. Edison then proceeded to 
look for some reason to account for the failure of the 
carbon to withstand the current, and he foimd it in the 
fact that it was impossible to get the air out of the lamp- 
black, besides which the thread had become so brittle 
that the slightest shock broke it even after it had been 


inserted in the lamp. A carbon filament, he felt sure, 
was the right thing, but not in the form of lampblack 
and tar. 

Then Edison had a brilliant idea. He sent a boy 
out to purchase a reel of cotton, and when it was brought 
to him he declared his intention of seeing what a piece 
of carbonized thread would accomplish. It was a 
fibre, he explained, fairly tenacious, and did not con- 
tain any air, so that possibly it might stand a greater 
heat than the platinum or lampblack. His associates 
looked dubious — how could so frail a thing stand an 
electric current 'that would melt the hardest of metals ? 
Nevertheless the experiment was worth trying, and 
preparations were at once made to carry it out. A 
short length of the thread bent in the form of a hair- 
pin was laid in a nickel mould, securely clamped, and 
placed in a muffle furnace, where it remained for five 
hours, after which it was withdrawn and allowed to 
cool. The mould was then opened and the carbonized 
thread carefully taken out, when it instantly broke. 
Another piece of cotton was placed in the mould, car- 
bonized, withdrawn, and again broken. Then com- 
menced a battle for a perfect filament, which lasted 
two days and two nights. Let any reader try the experi- 
ment of carbonizing a bit of thread and then handling 
it without injury, and he will get some idea of the nerve- 
racking experience through which Edison and his 
men passed. At last they succeeded in taking from 
the mould one perfect and imbroken filament, but 
when they attempted to attach it to the conducting 
wire it parted again. It was not imtil the night of the 
third day after beginning their experiments with car- 
bonized cotton — during which time no sleep or rest 
had been taken — that success came to them and the 
filament was placed in the lamp, the air exhausted, 


and the current turned on. A beautiful soft light met 
their eyes, and they knew that the secret of the incan- 
descent electric lamp was solved. 

In after years Edison thus described the wrestle 
he and his associate had in placing the carbonized 
cotton in the first electric bulb: "All night Bachelor, 
my assistant, worked beside me. The next day and 
the next night again, and at the end of that time we 
had produced one carbon out of an entire spool of 
Clarke's thread. Having made it, it was necessary 
to take it to the glass-blower's house. With the utmost 
precaution Bachelor took up the precious carbon, 
and I marched after him, as if guarding a mighty treas- 
ure. To our consternation, just as we reached the 
glass-blower's bench the wretched carbon broke. We 
turned back to the main laboratory and set to work 
again. It was late in the afternoon before we had 
produced another carbon, which was again broken 
by a jeweller's screw-driver falling against it. But we 
turned back again, and before night the carbon was com- 
pleted and inserted in the lamp. The bulb was ex- 
hausted of air and sealed, the current turned on, and 
the sight we had so long desired to see met our eyes." 

Edison and Bachelor watched that electric lamp 
for many hours. They tiuned on a small current at 
first, fearing that the frail filament would expire, but 
it withstood the heat so bravely that more current 
was called for until the tiny thread was bearing a heat 
imder which platinum would have instantly melted. 
For forty-five hours the cotton thread lasted, and then 
with a suddenness that was startling the light vanished. 
But it left behind happy if weary men, who congratu-' 
lated one another on the part each had played in pro- 
ducing a light which they knew was to* be the world's 
future leading illuminant. 


;;•' A 


The man who had the distinction of putting the 
first filament into an incandescent lamp — Charles 
Bachelor — had at the time been Edison's closest 
associate for several years. Edison always aflOrmed 
that Bachelor was the most wonderful man with his 
fingers that he had ever known, and during the hours 
and days he spent attempting to make a perfect fila- 
ment, only to break it, he never showed the slightest 
impatience. Just as soon as he broke one he would 
go ahead and make another, ever cheerful, good- 
tempered, imtiring. And when he finally succeeded, 
and the filament he had spent so many days over 
glowed with the steady light familiar to us tp-day, no 
one was more generous in congratulating him than 
Edison. He had performed a work which no other 
man in the laboratory coxild have accomplished — not 
excepting even the inventor himself — and ever after 
he was always spoken of as "Edison's hands." Later 
Bachelor enjoyal another distinction — he was the 
first man to have his portrait taken by the light of the 
new lamp. 

But the ideal filament was not yet foimd, for the 
carbonized cotton had only lasted forty-five hours. 
It was necessary to find a material which would give 
a light for at least a couple of himdred hours or longer 
before there could be any hope of the new invention 
being a commercial success. And so, with his usual 
impetuousness, Edison, after a sleep lasting nearly 
a day, commenced carbonizing ever3rthing in sight. 
Under the microscope he had foimd that his original 
cotton filament was hard and polished like a piece 
of steel:, and he believed if he could find a more homo- 
geneous material than thread, the filament might last 
ten times as long. The entire stafiF of the laboratory 
was set to work carbonizing straw, paper, cardboard, 


wood splints, and a hundred other things. In fact, 
during these carbonizing days nothing was safe — 
umbrellas, walking-sticks, all vanished, and the prob- 
ability is that if a lame man had called about that 
time his crutch would have gone the same way. Cu- 
riously enough, the best results were obtained with 
cardboard, which stood the electric current longer 
than the cotton thread. But after a few experiments 
in this line Edison concluded that cardboard was not 
what he was looking for either. Then the inventor 
got hold of a bamboo fan, tore off the rim which en- 
circled the leaf, and from it produced a filament which 
gave the best results of any. As a consequence he 
concluded that bamboo was the material best adapted 
for his purpose, but though the fan had performed 
excellent service he believed that somewhere there 
was a bamboo or cane of better quality capable of 
being converted into a perfect filament. 

Edison immediately set himself the task of learn- 
ing all that there was to learn about bamboos. He 
obtained works on the subject, and soon made the 
interesting if somewhat overwhelming discovery that 
there were at least twelve hundred varieties of bamboo 
known, of which about three hundred were made use 
of in some way. The inventor pined to have a speci- 
men of each one, and it only took him about half a 
minute to make up his mind to send men out into 
the world to obtain them. He wanted the most homo- 
geneous variety of bamboo that grew, and he meant 
to have it if it cost him his fortune. He didn't send 
one man, but several, and the search for a suitable 
filament for the electric lamp cost in the neighborhood 
of $100,000, Among those who went forth on this 
historic bamboo hunt besides William Moore was 
James Ricalton, a New Jersey schoolmaster, who made 


his way to the Malagan Peninsxila, Burmahy and 
soHthem China, covered 30,000 miles, and had many 
exciting encounters with wild beasts during a strenu- 
ous search for the correct kind of bamboo. Another 
man was sent to the Amazon and up the River de la 
Plata. Others to the West Indian Islands, South 
America, British Guiana, Mexico, Ceylon, and India. 
These men forwarded samples of bamboo and other 
fibrous plants to the Edison laboratory in bales, and 
all were tested by Edison. People in different parts 
of the world heard of his search for bamboo, and joined 
in the hunt on their own account, despatching samples 
in generous quantities. Something like six thousand 
specimens of bamboo were carbonized, and out of 
these Edison foimd three species of bamboo and one 
species of cane which gave almost perfect results. 
All these grew in a region of the Amazon, and were 
difficult to obtain owing to malaria. It is interesting 
to know that the only part of the bamboo used was 
the outer edge of the cylinder after the removal of 
what is known to the botanist as the "silicious epider- 
mis," and in order to produce good filaments the sec- 
tions had to be cut parallel with the fibres. 

During these experiments at Menlo Park the greatest 
excitement was caused in Europe as well as America 
by rumors which stated that the electric light was a 
brilliant success, a dead failure, an infringement of 
some one else's patents, and the like, while one story 
was published to the effect that the inventor himself 
had succiunbed to the strain, and was in a dangerous 
state of health. Menlo Park was besieged by reporters 
who implored admittance to the laboratory, but the 
gates were kept closed and watchmen put on guard 
to see that no unauthorized person entered. Many 
members of the stock company formed to introduce 


the new light called at the laboratory and were ad- 
mitted, afterwards being eagerly buttonholed by the 
reporters as they made their reappearance; but they 
had been placed imder injimctions of secrecy and 
would not talk. Edison, sympathizing with the "news- 
paper boys," as he called them, sent out a message 
saying that "he had encountered several difficulties 
which he had overcome by inventions already patented, 
but he had made other discoveries more hnportant 
than all in the way of making the electric light avail- 
able, and to disclose them to the public would endanger 
the success of the entire enterprise. Some delay would 
occur before application coxild be made for patents, 
as they related to materials which were not easily 
obtained in this country." 

It was on October 21, 1879, that Edison discovered 
the carbonized cotton filament, and in January of the 
following year letters patent were granted him for 
his new and improved electric lamp. The specifica- 
tion in this interesting document, which is throughout 
in Edison's handwriting, is as follows: 

" Be it known that I, Thomas Alva Edison, of 
Menlo Park, New Jersey, United States of America, 
have invented an improvement in electric lamps and 
in the Method of manufacturing the same of which 
the following is a specification: 

"The object of this invention is to produce electric 
lamps giving light by incandescence, which lamps 
shall have high resistance, so as to allow of the practical 
subdivision of the electric light. The invention con- 
sists in a light-giving body of carbon wire coiled or 
arranged in such a manner as to offer great resistance 
to the passage of the electric current and, at the same 
time, present but a slight surface from which radiation 
can take place. The invention further consists in 


placing such burner of great resistance in a nearly 
perfect vacuum to prevent oxidation and injury to 
the conductor by the atmosphere. The current so 
conducted into the vacuum bulb through platina wires 
sealed into the glass. The invention further consists 
in the method of manufacturing carbon conductors 
of high resistance, so as to be suitable for giving light 
by incandescence. 

"Heretofore, light by incandescence has been ob- 
tained from rods of carbon of i to 4 ohms resistance 
and placed in closed vessels, in which the atmospheric air 
has been replaced by gases that do not combine chemi- 
cally. The leading wires have always been large, so 
that their resistance shall be many times less than 
the burner, and, in general, the attempts of previous 
workers have been to reduce the resistance of the 
carbon rod. The disadvantages of following this 
practice are that a lamp having but i to 4 ohms resist- 
ance cannot be worked in great numbers in multiple 
arc without the emplo3rment of main conductors of 
enormous dimensions ; that owing to the low resistance 
of the lamp, the leading wires must be of large dimen- 
sions and good conductors, and a glass globe cannot 
be kept tight at the place where the wires pass in and 
are cemented ; hence the carbon is consumed, because 
there must be always a perfect vacuum to render the 
carbon stable, especially when such carbon is small in 
mass and high in electrical resistance. 

"The use of gas in the receiver at the atmospheric 
pressure, although not attacking the carbon, serves 
to destroy it in time by air-washing or the attrition 
produced by the rapid passage of the gas over the 
slightly coherent, highly heated surface of the carbon. 
I have reversed this practice. I have discovered that 
even a cotton thread properly carbonized and placed 


in a sealed glass bulb exhausted to one millionth of 
an atmosphere, offers from one hundred to five hun- 
dred ohms resistance to the passage of the ciurent, and 
that it is absolutely stable at very high temperatures ; 
that if the thread be coiled as a spiral and carbonized, 
or if any fibrous vegetable substance which will have 
a carbon residue after heating in a closed chamber 
be so coiled, as much as 2000 ohms resistance can be 
obtained without presenting a radiating surface greater 
than three-sixteenths of an inch. I have carbonized 
and used cotton and linen thread, wood-splints, papers 
coiled in various ways, also lampblack, plumbago, 
and carbon in various forms mixed with tar and rolled 
out into wires of various lengths and diameters." 

It is generally believed that the above was the first 
statement made in writing by Edison in reference 
to his incandescent electric light. Previous patents, 
however, had been granted to him covering a new 
generator, a modification of the Sprengel quicksilver- 
pump for the production of a vacuum, and other parts 
of the process. Since then he has taken out one him- 
dred and sixty-nine patents on electric lights. 

Having solved the difficulty of a suitable filament, 
he made a number of lamps which were stnmg along 
a wire and suspended from the trees in Menlo Park. 
They attracted world-wide attention, and the fact that 
they remained burning night and day for more than 
a week appeared marvellous to the thousands who 
journeyed to Menlo Park to view the wonderful lamps. 
"The lamps," wrote one of the visitors at the time, 
"are about four inches long, small and delicate, and 
comely enough for use in any apartment. They can 
be removed from a chandelier as readily as a glass 
stopper from a bottle and by the same motion. The 
current is turned on and off by the simple means of 


pressing a button. The lamp is simplicity itself in 
form and construction, and can be made for a very 
small sum. A few of the lamps which have been in 
use longest appear a little duller than the others, but 
this defect the inventor says will disappear as soon as 
he has carried out a few changes in the construction 
of the globe, which he contemplates doing at an early 

y^Dvamg the early days of January a general illumina- 
/ tion of Menlo Park took place for the special edifica- 
"^ tion of the New York Board of Aldermen, who went 
out to the laboratory at Edison's invitation on a special 
train. The inventor so arranged matters that the 
visitors arrived after dark, and the eflfect of the hun- 
dreds of brilliant incandescent lamps glowing among 
the leafless trees was very remarkable. The lamps 
were strung along two big wires, and the way in which 
one could be extinguished or lit without interfering 
with the others appeared to strike the aldermen as 
being particularly wonderful. Among the visitors 
on this memorable occasion was Hiram Maxim. 

And during all this time that Edison had been per- 
fecting the incandescent lamp his mind had been busy 
with another great idea — that of a central station 
from which consumers might obtain their electric 
light in the same way that they drew their gas. The 
initial difficulties of such an imdertaking were gigantic. 
It must be remembered that electric lighting was an 
absolutely new art, and outside the Edison laboratory 
there was no one who knew what it was all about. 
There were no factories to manufacture the apparatus, 
no skilled artisans to carry out the installing of an 
electric light system; no one, in fact, with the excep- 
tion of Edison's immediate associates, who could be 
trusted even to put a carboii filament in an exhausted 


globe. But Edison's mind had long been made up. 
His ambition was to see a central station built some- 
where in New York, and he never rested until his 
ambition was realized. The story of how this first 
central station was built is one of the most interesting 
in the whole history of electric lighting. Many years 
ago Edison related some of his experiences in connec- 
tion with this work in the Elecirical Review — the 
first and, I believe, last occasion on which he referred 
to the subject at any length — and to the editor of 
this magazine I tender my thanks for permission to 
reproduce here some of the inventor's remarks: 

"I had the central station idea in my mind all the 
time that I was pursuing my investigations in electric 
lighting. I got an insurance map of New York, in 
which every elevator shaft and boiler and house-top 
and fire-wall was set down and studied it carefully. 
Then I laid out a district and figured out an idea of 
the central station to feed that p^ of the town from 
just south of Wall Street up to Canal and over from 
Broadway to the East River. I worked on a system, 
and soon knew where every hatchway and bulkhead 
door in the district I had marked v/as and what every 
man paid for his gas. How did I know? Simplest 
thing in the world. I hired a man to start in every 
day about two o'clock and walk around through the 
district noting the number of gas lights burning in 
the various premises; then at three o'clock he went 
around again and made more notes, and at four o'clock 
and up to every other hour to two or three o'clock in 
the morning. In that way it was easy enough to figure 
out the gas consumption of every tenant and of the 
whole district ; other men took other sections. 

"After various other preliminaries we were fairly 
committed to the lighting project and started in to 


build the central station. You cannot imagine how 
hard it was. There was nothing that we could buy 
or that anybody else could make for us. We built 
the thing with our hands, as it were. At Menlo Park 
we started a lamp factory. Krusei was set to work 
making the tubes over in Washington Street, and we 
hired a kind of a second-class machine shop in Goerck 
Street and there started out making the dynamos, while 
Bergmann had a little place on the East Side where 
he made gas fixtures, and he went into making sockets 
and fixtures for us and did well with them. We started 
with our own money and credit — mostly credit. 
But we soon got the money put up for the station by 
starting the New York Ekiison Illuminating Company. 
"I planned out the station and found where it 
ought to go, but we could not get real estate where 
it was wanted. It cost us $150,000 for two old build- 
ings down in Pearl Street where we finally settled. We 
had very little room and we wanted a big output. 
There was nothing 'else for it but to get high-speed 
engines, and — there were no high-speed engines in 
those days. I had conceived the idea of a direct- 
coupled machine, and wanted to hitch the dynamo 
direct to the engine without belting. I could not see 
why, if a locomotive could run on that speed, a 150 
horse-power engine could not be made to run 350 turns 
a minute. The engine builders, when I asked them 
about it, held up their hands and said, 'Impossible!' 
I didn't think so. I found C. H. Porter, and I said to 
him, *Mr. Porter, I want a 150 horse-power engine 
to rim 700 revolutions per minute.' He hummed 
and hawed a little while, and then agreed to build 
it — if I could pay for it ! I believe he charged me 
$4200 for it. He got it finished and sent it out to 
the Park. 


''We set the machine up in the old shop, and we 
had some idea of what might happen. So we tied a 
chain around the throttle valve and ran it out through 
a window into the wood shed, where we stood to work 
it. Now the old shop stood on one of those New Jersey 
shale hills, and every time we opened up the engine 
and she got to about 300 revolutions the whole hill 
shook under her. We shut her off and rebalanced 
and tried again, and after a good deal of trouble we 
finally did run up to 700, but you should have seen her 
run! Why, every time the connecting rod went up 
she tried to lift that whole hill with her! After we 
got through with this business we tamed her down to 
350 revolutions (which was all I wanted), and then 
everybody said, 'Why, how beautifully it runs, and 
how practicable such an engine is !' We closed a bill 
for six engines, and I went to work in Goerck Street 
to build the dynamos on to them. Of course, we built 
them by guesswork. I guessed at no volts — and I 
didn't guess enough. So we put extra pole-pieces on 
them, and in that way managed to raise the voltage to 
what I wanted. 

"While all this was going on in the shop we had 
dug ditches and laid mains all around the district. 
I used to sleep nights on piles of pipes in the station, 
and I saw every box poured and every connection 
made on the whole job. There was nobody else who 
could superintend it. Finally we got our feeders all 
down and started to put on an engine and turn over 
one of the machines to see how things were. My 
heart was in my mouth at first, but ever5rthing worked 
all right, and we had more than 500 ohms insulation 
resistance. Then we started another engine and 
threw them in parallel. Of all the circuses since 
Adam was bom we had the worst then. One engine 



would stop and the other would run up to about a 
thousand revolutions, and then they would see-saw. 

"What was the matter? Why, it was these Porter 
governors! When the circus commenced the men 
who were standing around ran out precipitately, and 
some of them kept numing for a block or two. I 
grabbed the throttle of one engine and E. H. Johnson, 
who was the only one present to keep his wits, caught 
hold of the other and we shut them oflF. Of course I 
discovered then that what had happened was that one 
set was running the other one as a motor. I then put 
up a long shaft connecting all the governors together, 
and thought this would certainly cure the trouble, 
but it didn't. The torsion of the shaft was so great 
that one governor still managed to get ahead of the 
others. Then I went to Goerck Street and got a 
piece of shafting and a tube in which it fitted. I 
twisted the shaft one way and the tube the other as 
far as I could and pinned them together. In this 
way, by straining the whole outfit up to its elastic 
limit in opposite durections, the torsion was practically 
eliminated, and after that the governors ran together 
all right. 

"About that time I got hold of Gardiner C. Sims, 
and he undertook to build an engine to run at 350 
revolutions and give 175 horse-power. He went back 
to Providence and set to work and brought the engine 
back with him. It worked, but only a few minutes, 
when it busted. That man sat around that shop and 
slept in it for three weeks until he got his engine right 
and made it work the way we wanted it to. When 
he reached this period I gave orders for the works to 
run night and day until we got enough engines, and 
when all was ready we started the engine. The date 
was September 4, 1882 — a Saturday night. That was 


when we first turned the current on to the mains for 
regular light distribution, and it stayed on for eight 
years with only one insignificant stoppage. One of 
these engines that Sims built ran twenty-four hours 
a day for 365 days before it was stopped. 

"In those days we used the old chemical meters, 
and these gave us a lot of trouble, for, as they con- 
tained two jars of a liquid solution, there was always 
a danger of freezing in the cold weather. So I set to 
work to negative this difficulty and succeeded, as I 
thought, by putting an incandescent lamp in each 
meter with a thermostat strip, which would make, a 
contact through the lamp when the temperature fell 
to 40 degrees. That idea, simple as it was, caused 
us a whole lot of trouble. The weather became cold, 
and then the telephone in our office began to ring 
every five minutes and people would say — 
" * Our meter's red hot. Is that all right ?' 
"Then some one else would call up and say — 
'" ' Our meter's on fire inside, and we poured water 
on it. Did that hurt it?' 

"As to voltmeters, we didn't have any. We used 
lamps. And I hadn't much use for mathematicians 
either, for I soon found that I could guess a good deal 
closer than they could figure, so I went on guessing. 
We used to hang up a shingle nail, tie it on a string 
alongside one of the feeders, and used that for a heavy 
current ammeter. It worked all right. When the nail 
came close to the feeder we screwed up the rheostat 
a little, and in this way kept the lamps looking about 

"I invented the fuse wire about the time of the 
aldermen's visit to Menio Park. It had occurred to 
me that an interruption would be serious, and I had 
thought out the scheme of putting some fine copper 


wire in as fuses in various places. And when the 
aldermen came one fellow in the party who had a 
little piece of heavy wire in his hand managed to short- 
circuit the mains with his wire. He was very much 
surprised because only three lamps went out. The 
real reason. that led me to think of the fuse wire was 
that we were not very flush of dynamos in those days. 
I had burned out two or three, and I saw that some- 
thing was needed to prevent that happening again. 
After my experience with my short-circuiting friend, 
I had fuses put in all over." 

To the late Luther Stieringer I am indebted for the 
following brief description of the various methods 
adopted by Edison for registering the quantity of 
current supplied to consumers in those days: 

''Many experiments were made with all sorts of 
mechanism, motors, clockwork, electro-magnets, 
springs, heat, electrolysis, and electro-deposition. Fi- 
nally the Edison meter was evolved, and was found 
to answer perfectly. It consists of a small glass cell, 
containing a solution in which two zinc plates are 
immersed. A certain proportion of the current enter- 
ing the building is diverted through this combination, 
and an electro-plating action is set up in the cell, zinc 
being deposited on one plate from the other. Accord- 
ing to a well-known scientific law, a current of certain 
strength will deposit just so much zinc in a given time, 
no more and no less. Therefore, it is easy to see that 
if the plates are periodically weighed, the amount of 
current supplied between the times of weighing can 
be calculated to a nicety. 

"Mr. Edison has also invented various other instru- 
ments for measuring electric-light currents, such as a 
weighing voltmeter, in which the current acts on coils 
of wire at one end of the beam, the other end being 


balanced by a cup filled with shot. The deflection 
of the pointer indicates the pressure of the current 
traversing the coil. In another instrument he causes 
the pressure, or electro-motive force, of the current to 
be registered on a sheet of paper, revolved by clock- 
work; and in a third, which he has styled the 'sono- 
rous voltameter,' the action of the current makes itself 
known by a series of small explosions in a glass cell. 
Two platinum wires are immersed in water in the cell, 
and the current passing between them decomposes 
the water, causing small bubbles to rise to the surface 
and explode; the cell is closed over, with the exception 
of an aperture provided with a funnel to magnify the 

It is interesting at this date, when the thirtieth anni- 
versary of the invention of the incandescent lamp is 
in sight, to look back and note the buildings which 
were first illuminated by electric light. It is claimed 
that the first office building to adopt the incandescent 
lamp was that of the New York Herald^ where a com- 
plete plant was installed, and when that enterprising 
paper sent out the sailing vessel JeaneUe to find the 
North Pole, one of her chief novelties was a complete 
installation of the Edison electric^light system. She 
was lost in Arctic seas, and so it is more than possible 
that some of Edison's first lamps are still reposing 
beneath the waters of those icy regions. 

The first church lighted by electricity is generally 
supposed to have been the City Temple, London, 
while the first theatre was the Bijou, Boston, which 
was lighted by an Edison isolated plant, December 
12, 1882. There were 650 lamps used, and the first 
attraction given with the new illumination was, very 
appropriately, Gilbert and Sullivan's fairy opera 
^'lolanthe." The proscenium arch was surrounded 


by 192 lamps; 140 were placed in the borders, and 
60 in the chandelier of the auditorium, making a total 
of 392 lamps — the balance being placed in different 
parts of the building. No other method of lighting 
was provided, and there were no footlights. 

The first hotel to be lighted by electricity was the 
Blue Moimtain House, in the Adirondacks, where 
an Edison plant was started in 1881. There were 
125 lamps, each with an average life of 800 hours. 
It was also at this hotel that the first electric lamp 
was placed in an elevator car — July 12, 1882. The 
Blue Mountain House is situated at an elevation 
of 3500 feet above the sea, and was, at the time of 
the electric-light installation, forty miles from the 
railroad. The machinery was taken in pieces on the 
backs of mules from the foot of the mountain. The 
boilers were fired with wood, as the commercial trans- 
portation of coal was a physical impossibility. For 
a six hours* run of the electric plant, one-quarter of a 
cord of wood was required at a cost of 25 cents per 
cord. Regulation of the dynamo was effected by 
a rheostat in the office, about 100 feet from the centre 
of distribution. 

The first electrolier was wired and placed in service 
some time during 1880, at the residence of Mr. 
Francis R. Upton, at Menlo Park, near Edison's 
laboratory. Great care was taken to distinguish the 
polarity of each conductor, the positive wires being of 
red and the negative wires of blue flexible cord. The 
lamps were from the first placed in an inverted posi- 
tion, which is now so familiar but was then so novel. 
This electrolier was shown at the St. Louis Exposition 
in 1904. The first private residence to be lighted by 
Edison lamps was that of J. Hood Wright, New York, 
while the first steam vessel to employ the same illu- 


minant was the Columbia^ running between San Fran- 
cisco and Portland, Oregon. 

The country which probably lagged longest behind 
in a general adoption of the electric light was England, 
due, no doubt, to the fact that in 1880 Parliament passed 
a law whereby it was enacted that at the expiration of 
twenty years electric-light plants were to be bought by 
the Government. The result can be imagined. Private 
enterprise was strangled, and gas as an illuminant 
remained triumphant. Eight years later, however, 
the law was repealed, and soon the electric light began 
to glow in every village and hamlet throughout the 

Over the electric light there has been more litiga- 
tion than over any other of Ekiison's inventions. As 
he himself says: "I fought for the lamp for fourteen 
years, and when I finally won my rights there were 
but three years of the allotted seventeen left for my 
patent to live. Now it has become the property of 
anybody and everybody." One writer, in a letter 
addressed to the press, endeavored to show that 
the incandescent light was used in the thirteenth 
century, and to prove his point quoted the following 
from a work entitled "Sorcery and Magic," published 
in 1852: 

"Diu-ing the thirteenth century, for profit of the 
common people, Virgilius, on a great mighty marble 
pillar, did make a bridge that came to the palace. 
The palace and bridge stood in the middle of Rome, 
and upon this pillar made he a lamp of glass that 
always burned without going out, and nobody might 
put it out; and this lamp lightened over all the city 
of Rome from the onp comer to the other ; and there 
was not so little a street but it gave such a light that 
it seemed two torches there did stand; and upon the 


walls of the palace made he a metal man that held in 
his hand a metal bow that pointed over and upon the 
lamp to shoot it out; but always burned the lamp and 
gave light over all Rome. 

"And upon a time went the burgesses' daughters 
to play in the palace, and they beheld the metal man, 
and one of them asked in sport why he shot not ; and 
then she came to the man and with her hand touched 
the bow, and then the bolt flew out and break the lamp 
that Virgilius made. And itwis wonderful that the 
maid went not out of her mma for the great fear she 
had, and also the other burgesses' daughters that were 
in her company, of the great stroke that it gave when 
it hit the lamp. And this forsaid lamp was abyding 
after the death of Virgilius by the space of three hun- 
dred years or more." 

According to this original correspondent, the lamp 
of Virgilius was, without doubt, an electric lamp, 
and the newspaper that published his curious letter 
plaintively inquired, "What will the Patent dffice 
do about it?" The Patent OflSce, however, took no 
action in the matter, but confined its attention to those 
living claimants who labored imder the delusion that 
they had invented the incandescent electric-light system, 
and who cropped up as suddenly as mushrooms in June. 

While Edison was still experimenting at Menio 
Park, and soon after he had given the exhibition of 
his first electric lamps, considerable excitement was 
caused by some humorous newspaper man spreading 
the report that what every one thought was the evening 
star was really an electric lamp which Edison had sent 
up attached to an invisible balloon. It seems almost- 
incredible, but by thousands of people the story was 
believed, and for many nights within a radius of a hun- 
dred miles faces were turned upward to gaze on the 


mysterious light. After a time people in other states 
declared that they also could see the wonderful sight. 
The newspapers were inundated with letters asking for 
information as to how the light was really suspended, 
and what Edison's object was in sending it up such a 
height. When the papers assured the public that the 
wonderful light was nothing but the evening star, at 
least half the people didn't believe it, and for years 
afterwards the subject would be revived from time to 
time by the publication of letters in the local press. 
As late as 1895 the light was referred to as the "Eidison 
Star," and the inventor often had a quiet chuckle over 
the idea that he should have attempted the illumination 
of the firmament. Edison himself received many letters 
on the subject, but he never replied to them, hoping 
that the absurd story would die a natural death — which 
it did after reaching years of discretion. 

No other industry has grown to such mighty pro- 
portions as that of the incandescent electric light. 
Twenty years after its invention the investment in 
electric-lighting plants in the United States alone 
amounted to the enormous sum of $750,000,000. 
"This extraordinary achievement," said the statistician 
who made the estimate, "represents a struggle with 
powerful and well-organized competition of a long- 
established industry — that of gas illumination. It 
made its way against bitter opposition, against corrupt 
coimcils, and the difficulties and failures consequent 
upon over-capitalization, to where it is now — one 
of the solid, certain industries of the world. Beyond 
any question the most marvellous development of this 
or any other century in the field of applied science may 
be seen m the electric-lighting industry. There is 
nothing comparable to it in the whole history of civiliza- 
tion. The average layman who sees the streets of the 









• " \ ; 

' I / 


modem city and its stores made light as day has little 
conception of the amazing growth of the industry that 
has reached the highways of human progress with 
millions upon millions of incandescent bulbs." 



Edison has not often lectured in public, and the 
majority of those lectures which he has delivered have 
not, unfortunately, been preserved. One of his most 
valuable addresses, however, he still possesses, and as 
it shows some of the inexhaustible energy he displayed 
in his search for a suitable fdament in connection with 
his invention of the incandescent light, besides de- 
scribing many curious phenomena arising from the 
heating of metal in vacuo by means of the electric cur- 
rent, we reproduce it here with the inventor's permis- 
sion. It was delivered before a New York audience on 
September 2, 1879, a short time prior to his discovery of 
the bamboo filament. 

"In the course of my experiments on electric light- 
ing," read Mr. F. R. Upton from the writer's exquisite 
manuscript — for Edison himself was too busy to deliver 
the lecture — "I have developed some striking phe- 
nomena arising from the heating of metal by flames and 
by electric current, especially wires of platinum and 
platinum alloyed with iridium. These experiments 
are still in progress. The first fact observed was that 
platinum lost weight when heated in a flame of hydrogen, 
that the metal colored the flame green, and that these 
two results continued until the whole of the platinum 
in contact with the flame had disappeared. Platinum 
wire jj^ of an inch in diameter, and weighing 306 



milligrammes, was bunched together and suspended 
in a hydrogen flame. It lost weight at the rate of a 
fraction less than i milligramme per hour as long as it 
was suspended in the flame. When a platinimi wire 
is stretched between two clamping-posts, and arranged 
to pass through a hydrogen flame, it is colored a light 
green, but when the temperature of the wire is raised 
above that of the flame, by passing a current through it, 
the flame is colored a deep green. 

"To ascertain the diminution in the weight of a 
platinum wire when heated by the electric current, I 
placed between two clamping-posts a wire -j^tt ^^ ^^ 
inch in diameter, and weighing 266 milligrammes. 
This wire, after it was brought to incandescence for 
about twenty minutes by the current, lost i milli- 
gramme. The same wire was then raised to incan- 
descence, for about twenty minutes it gave a loss of 
3 milligrammes. Afterward it was kept incandes- 
cent for one hour and ten minutes, at which time it 
weighed 258 milligrammes, a total loss of 8 milli- 
grammes. Another wire weighing 243 milligrammes 
was kept moderately incandescent for nine hours, 
after which it weighed 201 milligrammes, showing a 
total loss of 42 milligrammes. 

"A platinum wire yJ^if of an inch in diameter was 
wound in the form of a spiral ^ of an inch in diameter 
and ^ an inch in length. The two ends of the spiral 
were secured to clamping-posts, and the whole appa- 
ratus was covered with a glass shade 2^ inches in 
diameter and 3 inches high. Upon bringing the spiral 
to incandescence for twenty minutes that part of the 
globe in line with the sides of the spiral became slightly 
darkened; in five hours the deposit became so thick 
that the incandescent spiral could not be seen through 
the deposit. This film, which was most perfect, con- 


sisted of platinum, and I have no doubt but that large 
plates of glass might be coated economically by placing 
them on each side of a large sheet of platinum kept 
incandescent by the electric current. 

"This loss in weight, together with the deposit 
upon the glass, presented a very serious obstacle to 
the use of metallic wires for giving light by incan- 
descence, but this was easily surmounted after the 
cause was ascertained. I coated the wire forming 
the spiral with oxide of magnesium by dusting upon 
it finely powdered acetate of magnesium; while in- 
candescent the salt was decomposed by the heat, and 
there remained a strongly adherent coating of the 
oxide. This spiral so coated was covered with a glass 
shade and brought to incandesj:ence for several minutes, 
but instead of a deposit of platinum upon the glass there 
was a deposit of the oxide of magnesia. 

"From this and other experiments I became con- 
vinced that this efiFect was due to the washing action 
of the air upon the spiral; that the loss of weight in, 
and. the coloration of, the hydrogen flame was also 
due to the wearing away of the siuiace of the platina 
by the attrition produced by the impact of the stream 
of gases upon the highly incandescent siuiace, and 
not to volatilization, as commonly understood. And 
I venture to say, though I have not tried the experi- 
ment, that metallic sodium cannot be volatilized in 
high vacua by the heat derived from incandescent 
platiniun; in effect, what may be produced will be 
due to the washing action of the residual air. 

"After the experiments last described I placed a 
spiral of platinum in the receiver of a common air 
pump, and arranged it in such a manner that the 
current could pass through it while the receiver was 
exhausted. At a pressure of two millimetres the spiral 


was kept at incandescence for two hours before the 
deposit was sufficient to become visible. In another 
experiment at a higher exhaustion it required five 
hours before a deposit became visible. 

''In a sealed ^ass bulb, exhausted by a Sprengel 
pump to a point where a quarter of an inch spark 
from an induction coil would not pass between points 
one millimetre apart, was placed a spiral, the connecting 
wires passing through the glass. The spiral was kept 
at the most dazzling incandescence for hoiurs without 
the slightest deposit becoming visible. 

"I will now describe other and far more impor- 
tant phenomena observed in my experiments. If 
a short length of platinum wire, ^^^ of an inch in 
diameter, be held in the flame of a Bunsen burner, 
at some part it will fuse and a piece of the wire will be 
bent at an angle by the action of the globule of melted 
platinum; in some cases there are several globules 
formed simultaneously, and the wire assumes a zigzag 
shape. With a wire y^Vir ^^ ^in inch in diameter this 
effect does not take place, as the temperature cannot be 
raised to equal that of a smaller wire owing to the 
increased radiating surface and mass. After heating, if 
the wire be examined under the microscope, that part of 
the surface which has been incandescent will be found 
covered with innumerable cracks. If the wire be placed 
between damping-posts and heated to incandescence 
for twenty minutes by the passage of an electric current, 
cracks will be so enlarged as to be seen with the naked 
eye, the wire under the microscope presents a shrunken 
appearance and is full of deep cracks. If the ciurent 
is continued for several hours, these eflfects will so in- 
crease that the wire will fall to pieces. 

''This disintegration has been noticed in platina 
long subject to the action of a flame by Professor John 


W. Draper. The failure of the process of lighting 
invented by the French chemist Tessic du Motay, 
who raised sheets of platinum to incandescence by 
introducing them into a hydrogen flame, was due to 
the rapid disintegration of the metal. I have ascer- 
tained the cause of this phenomenon, and have suc- 
ceeded in eliminating that which produces it, and in 
doing so have produced a metal in a state hitherto im- 
known, and which is absolutely stable at a temperature 
where nearly all substances melt or are consumed; a 
metal which, although originally soft and pliable, 
becomes as homogeneous as glass and rigid as steel. 
When wound in the form of a spiral it is as springy 
and elastic when at the most dazzling incandescence as 
when cold, and cannot be annealed by any process now 
commonly known. 

"For the cause of this shrinking and cracking of 
the wire is due entirely to the expansion of the air in 
the mechanical and physical pores of the platinum 
and the contraction upon the escape of the air. Plati- 
nimi, as sold in commerce, may be compared to sand- 
stone in which the whole is made up of a great number 
of particles, with many air spaces. The sandstone 
upon melting becomes homogeneous, and no air spaces 
exist. With platinum or any metal the air spaces 
may be eliminated and the metal made homogeneous 
by a very simple process. This process I will now 

"I have made a large number of platinimi spirals 
all of the same size and from the same quality of wire; 
each spiral presented to the air a radiating surface of 
three-sixteenths of an inch; five of these were brought 
by the electric current up to the melting-point, the light 
was measured by a photometer, and the average light 
was equal to four standard candles for each spiral just 



at the melting-point. One of the same kind of spirals 
was placed in the receiver of an air-pump and the air 
exhausted to two millimetres; a weak current was then 
passed through the wire slightly wanning it for the 
purpose of assisting the passage of the air from the pores 
of the metal into the vacuum. The temperature of the 
wire was gradually augmented at intervals of ten minutes 
until it became red. The object of slowly increasing 
the temperature was to allow the air to pass out gradually 
and not explosively. 

"Afterward the current was increased at intervals 
of fifteen minutes. Before each increase in the current 
the wire was allowed to cool, and the contraction and 
expansion at these high temperatures caused the wire 
to weld together at the point previously containing the 
air. In one hour and forty minutes this spiral had 
reached such a temperature without melting that it 
was giving a light of twenty-five standard candles, 
whereas it would undoubtedly have melted before it 
gave a light of five candles had it not been put through 
the above process. Several more spirals were after- 
ward tried with the same result. One spiral, which 
had been brought to these high temperatures more 
slowly, gave a light equal to thirty standard candles. 
In the open air this spiral gave nearly the same light, 
although it required some current to keep it at the same 

"Upon examination of these spirals, which had 
passed through the vacuum process, by the aid of 
a microscope, no cracks were visible; the wire had 
become as white as silver, and had a polish which 
could not be given it by any other means. The wire, 
had a less diameter than before treatment, and it was 
exceedingly diflScult to melt in the oxyhydrogen flame. 
As compared with untreated platinum it was foimd that 


it was as hard as the steel wire used in pianos, and that 
it could not be annealed at any temperature. 

"My experiments with many metals treated by this 
process have proved to my satisfaction, and I have no 
hesitation in stating, that what is known as annealmg 
of metals to make them soft and pliable is nothing more 
than the cracking of the metal. In every case where a 
hard drawn wire had been annealed a powerful micro- 
scope revealed myriads of cracks in the metal/ 

" Since these experiments of which I have just spoken, 
I have, by the aid of Sprengel mercury pumps, pro- 
duced higher exhaustions, and have by consuming five 
hours in excluding the air from the wire and inter- 
mitting the current a great number of times, succeeded 
in obtaining a light of eight standard candles from a 
spiral of wire with a total radiating surface of ^ of an 
inch, or a surface about equal to a grain of buckwheat. 
With spirals of this small size, each having passed 
through the process, the average amotmt of light given 
out before melting is less than one standard candle. 
Thus I am enabled, by the increased capacity of plati- 
nimi, to withstand the high temperatures, to employ 
small radiating surfaces, and thus reduce the energy 
required for candle-light. 

"I can now obtain eight separate jets, each giving 
out absolutely steady light, and each equal to sixteen 
standard candles or a total of 128 candles by the ex- 
penditiure of 30,000 foot-pounds of energy, or less than 
one horse-power. 

"As a matter of curiosity I have made spirals of 
other metals and excluded the air from them in the 
manner stated. Common iron wire may be made to 
give a light greater than platinum not heated. The 
iron becomes as hard as steel and just as elastic. Nickel 
is far more refractory than iron. Steel wire used in 


pianos becomes decarbonized, but remains hard and 
assumes the color of silver. Aluminium melts only 
at a white heat. 

''In conclusion it may be interesting to state that 
the melting-point of many oxides is dependent upon 
the manner of applying the heat. For instance, pure 
oxide of zerconiiun does not fuse in the flame of the 
oxyhydrogen blow-pipe, while it melts like wax and 
conducts electricity when on an incandescent platinimi 
spiral which is at a far lower temperatiure; on the 
other hand, oxide of aluminium easily melts in the oxy- 
hydrogen flame, while it only vitrifies on the platinum 



The phonograph was the result of pure reason based 
upon a very happy inspiration. In his early work with 
automatic telegraphs operating at high speeds, Edison 
had occasion to experiment with embossed strips 
impressed with dashes and dots thereon which were 
moved rapidly beneath a stylus to vibrate it It was 
observed that this stylus in vibrating produced audible 
sounds. A small thing such as this would pass unno- 
ticed by the ordinary observer as of no interest, but to 
a mind that is not only intensely alert but highly analyti- 
cal it was regarded as a curious phenomenon. At this 
time Edison was actively working on his telephone 
experiments, so that his attention was largely absorbed 
by matters connected with acoustics. Simply as a 
matter of inspiration the idea of a talking machine 
occurred to him, and, remembering his experiments 
with the automajtic telegraph transmitter, he concluded 
that, if the imdulations on the strip could be given the 
proper form and arrangement, the diaphragm could be 
vibrated so as to reproduce any desired sounds. 

The next step was to form the proper undulations 
in the strip, and the idea was then suggested to Edison's 
mind that these imdulations could be produced by 
sounds themselves, which could then be reproduced. 
When this complete conception was reached the phono- 
graph was produced. Obviously, the change from a 




strip of material capable of being impressed by sound- 
waves to a cyliiider of such material on which the 
sound-waves could be impressed in a spiral line was 
a refinement of the original conception which simply 
involved mechanical considerations. It is, therefore, 
rather an interesting fact that in the development of the 
phonograph the reproduction of the sounds preceded 
the original production of the record. 

Ten years after inventing the phonograph Edison 
wrote an article on the subject for the pages of the 
North American Review. From this interesting paper 
we quote the following paragraphs : 

"In the phonograph," he writes, "we find an illustra- 
tion of the truth that human speech is governed by 
the laws of number, harmony, and rhythm. And 
by these laws we are now able to register all sorts of 
sounds and all articulating utterances — even to the 
lightest shades and variations of the voice — in lines or 
dots which are an absolute equivalent for the emission 
of sound by the lips ; so that, through this contrivance, 
we can cause these lines and dots to give forth again 
the sound of the voice, of music, and all other sounds 
recorded by them, whether audible or inaudible. For 
it is a very extraordinary fact that, while the deepest 
tone that our ears are capable of recognizing is one 
containing sixteen vibrations a second, the phonograph 
will record ten or less, and can then raise the pitch until 
we hear a reproduction of them. Similarly, vibrations 
above the highest rate audible to the ear can be recorded 
by the phonograph and then reproduced by lowering 
the pitch until we actually hear the record of these 
inaudible pulsations. 

"To make the idea of the recording of sound more 
clear, let me remark one or two points. We have 
all been struck by the precision with which even the 


faintest sea-waves impress upon the surface of a beach 
the fine, sinuous line which is formed by the rippling 
edge of their advance. Almost as familiar is the fact 
that grains of sand sprinkled on a smooth surface of 
glass or wood on or near a piano sift themselves into 
various lines and curves according to the vibrations 
of the melody played on the piano keys. These things 
indicate how easily the particles of solid matter may 
receive an imparted motion, or take an impression, 
from delicate liquid waves, air-waves, or waves of 
sound. Yet, well known though these phenomena 
were, they apparently never suggested until within a 
few years that the sound-waves set going by a human 
voice might be so directed as to trace an impression 
upon some solid substance with a nicety equal to that 
of the tide recording its flow upon a sand beach. 

"My own discovery that this could be done came 
to me almost accidentally while I was busy with ex- 
periments having a diflferent object in view. I was 
engaged upon a machine intended to repeat Morse 
characters which were recorded on paper by indenta- 
tions that transferred their message to another cir- 
cuit automatically when passed under a tracing-point 
connected with a circuit-closing apparatus. In manipu- 
lating this machine I foimd that when the cylinder 
carrying the indented paper was turned with great 
swiftness, it gave off a humming noise from the indenta- 
tions — a musical, rhythmic sound resembling that of 
human talk heard indistinctly. This led me to try 
fitting a diaphragm to the machine, which would receive 
the vibrations or sound-waves made by my voice when 
I talked to it, and register these vibrations upon an 
impressible material placed on the cylinder. The ma- 
terial selected for immediate use was paraffined paper, 
and the results obtained were excellent. The indenta- 


tions on the cylinder, when rapidly revolved, caused a 
repetition of the original vibrations to reach the ear 
through a recorder, just as if the machine itself were 
speaking. I saw at once that the problem of registering 
human speech so that it could be repeated by mechanical 
means as often as might be desired was solved." 

John Ejrusei, the man who made the first phono- 
graph, died in 1899, but his voice is still preserved 
among hundreds of other records in the store closets 
of the Orange laboratory. Edison has often affirmed 
that Krusei was the cleverest mechanic who ever 
worked for him, and it was in no small way due to him 
that the invention of the phonograph was brought to 
so speedy and successful an issue. He was wonder- 
fully quick at grasping the principles of any new dis- 
covery, and was an adept at making models which would 
perform all the duties expected of them. 

When Edison had conceived the phonograph he 
called Krusei to him, showed him a rough sketch of 
the proposed machine, and asked him to build a 
model as quickly as he could. In those days Edison's 
model makers worked by piece, and it was customary 
to mark the price on each model. In this instance 
the cost agreed upon was eight dollars. Krusei was 
asked how long it would take him to complete the 
model, and he replied that he couldn't tell, but he 
promised that he wouldn't rest until it was finished. 
This was in the Menlo Park days, when Edison was 
looked upon as the sleepless wonder. He was accus- 
tomed to his chief assistants' working with him for 
two and three days at a stretch without rest, and no 
man showed more tireless energy than Krusei. He 
could do with as little repose as the inventor himself, 
and would become so absorbed in his work that fatigue 
was unfelt and time forgotten. The principles of the 


phonograph he absorbed with lightning rapidity, 
but it took him thirty hours to make the model — 
thirty hours without rest and very little food. At 
the end of that time he brought to Edison the historic 
machine which is now preserved in the South Ken- 
sington Museum. It was; a large, clumsy afifair; tinfoil 
was used as the material on which the indentations were 
to be made, and the cylinder was revolved by hand. 

If Edison was in any way excited on receiving the 
first model of his invention for recording human speech 
he did not show it, and those who were with him 
on that memorable occasion afiSrm that he regarded 
it at the time more in the light of a queer toy than that 
of a machine which would create any great sensation. 
Among those who were present when Krusei brought 
in his model was Carman, the foreman of the machine- 
shop ; and this man, unable to believe what he had been 
told, bet Edison a box of cigars that the thing wouldn't 
work. The inventor, with much good-humor, accepted 
the wager, and then with a smile, bom of absolute 
faith in his deductions, slowly turned the handle of the 
machine and spoke into the receiver the first verse of 
"Mary had a little Lamb." Then the cylinder was 
returned to the starting-pomt, and faint, but distinct. 

Sack the words of that juvenile classic faithfully 
d in Edison's familiar tones. Those present 
^ed rather than astonished, and the tension was 
not broken until Carman, in accents of pretended 
disappointment, and with a look of assumed disgust, 
exclaimed, "Well, I guess I've lost." 

The first patent on the phonograph was filed in the 
United States, December 24, 1877, and was granted 
February 19, 1878, No. 200,521. Prior to this, how- 
ever, in an application filed in Great Britain on July 30, 
1877, No. 2909, Edison disclosed not only a cylinder 



phonograph, but also an apparatus embodying his 
original conception of an embossed strip. Under these 
circimistances, perhaps, it is not unreasonable that 
■ Great Britain should now possess ELrusei's original 
model, though its loss is one which America will doubt- 
less deplore in years to come. 

The phonograph has been described as the simplest 
machine ever invented — there is absolutely no com- 
plicated mechanism of any kind in its make-up — 
yet it is diflBcult to believe this when confronted by 
a description subsequently given in a court of law 
when "infringements" began to come in with that 
customary regularity attendant upon every new and 
successful invention. A document was filed describ- 
ing the "talking machine" in a way which made the 
inventor smile. "The phonograph," it declared, "is 
a machine for recording and reproducing sound, and 
from a commercial standpoint consists of two articles, 
one of which is commonly known to the public as 
the * phonograph' and the other as the * record.' The 
'phonograph,' as designated by the public aforesaid, 
consists practically of a lathe mechanism, having a re- 
volving shaft to which is attached a tapering mandrel, 
connected by intermediate gearing, with which is a 
frame arrangement to move longitudinally with the 
shaft as the shaft revolves; in this frame may be 
placed either of two apparatuses which are called 
respectively a 'recorder' and a 'reproducer.' Each 
of these consists of a glass diaphragm to which by 
intermediate mechanism is attached either a cutting- 
point or a reproducing-point ; the mechanism having 
attached to it a cutting-point is called a 'recorder,' 
and the one having attached to it a reproducing-point 
is called the 'reproducer.' 

"The record referred to consists of a tubular tablet 


or record blank of metallic soap, cylindrical on its 
exterior, and having a tapering bore suitable to be 
placed in the tapering mandrel. When this tablet or 
blank is placed on the mandrel, and the recorder is 
put in operative relation with it, and sound-waves are 
directed against the diaphragm of the recorder, and 
the mandrel is revolving, the sound-waves are on the 
tablet in the shape of a helical groove with indenta- 
tions and elevations in the bottom of the groove corre- 
sponding to the sound-waves. The tablet with this 
record of sound upon it becomes a record as the word 
is used by the public. When the sounds so recorded 
are to be reproduced the same operation is repeated, 
except that a reproducer is substituted for a recorder.'* 

On reading this lucid and interesting description, 
Edison said it made his head swim, and that he never 
before realized what a wonderful and remarkable 
invention the phonograph really was. The document 
deserved to be placed in the archives of phonographic 

On the model of the first phonograph about fifty 
other machines were built, but these were almost all 
destroyed in subsequent experiments. Early in his 
work of perfecting his invention Edison discovered 
that tinfoil was practically worthless as a recorder — 
it did not retain the impression accurately, and after 
being used once or twice was useless. So he turned 
his attention to discovering a new and better compo- 
sition on which to record sound-waves. Wax imme- 
diately suggested itself, but after experimenting with 
many kinds he was convinced that a pure product 
was not what he was looking for. He studied works 
on the subject of animal and vegetable oils, and ob- 
tained samples of almost every known fat in the Old 
and New Worlds. Then he set half-a-dozen men to 



work melting, blending, and mixing a hundred different 
varieties, and finally obtained a combination of waxes 
which seemed to answer his purpose. But the stuff 
was costly, and in order to economize it he made the 
cylmders of paper and covered them with the wax to a 
depth of about an eighth of an inch. The result was 
good records, but the cylinders were very fragile, and 
considerable care had to be taken in handling them. 

Edison was not satisfied. He saw with die eye of 
a practical man that the phonograph to be popular 
must be furnished with records capable of withstand- 
ing a certain amoimt of free usage, and this convinced 
him that a composition cylinder was the thing he 
wanted, so he discarded wax and tried stearate of soda. 
The result was all that he had looked for, and the 
Edison record as we know it to-day is made of a com- 
bination of ingredients which much resembles soap. 
Stearin, it may be mentioned, is, according to Webster, 
"one of the proximate principles of animal fat, as lard, 
tallow, and the like. The various kinds of animal 
fat commonly consist of two substances, principally 
stearin and elain, of which the former is solid and 
the latter liquid. In particular instance^ several other 
different and distinct proximate principles are foimd in 
animal fats." Readers may be glad to remember this 
jehen next listening to an Edison record ! 

A few months after the invention of the phono- 
graph Edison was asked to forecast its usefulness, 
and it may not be without interest to recall here what 
he said thirty years ago. He believed that the greatest 
use for the phonograph would be foimd in the oflSce, 
where it could take all the correspondence and repeat 
it for the benefit of the letter writer. Authors, he 
thought, would use the phonograph instead of the pen, 
and printers would set up the type direct from records. 


In the law courts witnesses would be compelled to 
speak their evidence into a ^^ talking machine/' which 
would also record the sayings of judge and counsel. 
For public speakers the phonograph would be valu- 
able in enabling them to be heard simultaneously in a 
himdred different towns. It would take the place 
of readers in blind asylums and hospitals, and as an 
elocutionary teacher, or as a primary teacher for chil- 
dren, it would, he declared, be invaluable. 

Continuing his prophecies, Edison said: ''The 
phonograph will undoubtedly be largely devoted to 
music — either vocal or instrumental — and may pos- 
sibly take the place of the teacher. It will sing the 
child to sleep, tell us what o'clock it is, summon us to 
dinner, and warn the lover when it is time to vacate 
the front porch. As a family record it will be pre- 
cious, for it will preserve the sayings of those dear to 
us, and even receive the last messages of the dying. 
It will enable the children to have dolls that really 
speak, laugh, cry, and sing, and imitation dogs that 
bark, cats that meow, lions that roar, and roosters 
that crow. It will preserve the voices of our great 
men, and enable future generations to listen to speeches 
by a Lincoln or a Gladstone. Lastly, the phonograph 
will perfect the telephone and revolutionize present 
systems of telegraphy." 

How much of this forecast has been realized is well 
known to the reader — certainly sufficient to stamp 
Edison as a very good prophet. Up to the present, 
however, the combination of phonograph and telephone 
has not proved a success ; but there is time yet, and 
the inventor still hopes to realize this prophecy made 
by him in 1878. A few years ago the combination 
was tried in San Francisco, and a New York man on 
his return irom a Western trip volunteered some 



information regarding the experiment of applying an 
automatic phonograph to a telephone switchboard to 
do the work of an operator. "The result," he said, 
"was satisfactory to the telephone company, but it 
must have been heart-breaking to some of their sub- 
scribers. This phonograph was so arranged that 
when a subscriber called up a number that was busy 
the phonograph answered, 'Busy now. Call up later.' 
This was the invariable reply whenever a busy number 
was called over, and it was given in a monotonous 
tone of voice. 

"I admired the cleverness of the application until 
the manager said to me, *You know some of our sub- 
scribers are very profane, and perhaps you would like 
to hear their opinions. Here is Captain Blank, who 
has been calling a busy number now for five minutes. 
Listen to him.' Captain B.'s wire was swung on to a 
receiver, which I put to my ear. I never heard any- 
thing like it. *You blankety blank, blank idiot,' he 
was saying, 'can't you say anything else but "Busy 
now. Call up later"? There you go again, you 
blamed idiotic chump. I am going up to the Central 
OflSce and kill you right away.' 'That,' said the 
manager, 'is one of the drawbacks to this invention. 
It excites profane men unduly, and it might lead to 
violence.' I heard the opinion of several other San 
Franciscans who called busy numbers and received 
over and over again this monotonous reply, and I 
think the invention is open to serious objection." 

Two writers at least have predicted the phonograph. 
In 1839 an unidentified author — generally believed to 
have been the poet Hood — wrote: "In this country 
of inventions, when a self-acting drawing-paper has 
been discovered for copying invisible objects, who 
knows but that a future Niepce, or Daguerre, or Her- 


schel or Fox Talbot might find out some sort of Bos- 
wellish writing-paper to repeat whatever it hears?" 

The second writer to predict the phonograph was 
a woman — Miss Jean Ingelow — and she came out 
with her prediction only five years before it was realized. 
In a fairy story written by her in 1872, and entitled 
"Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-two," wherein she 
sought to forecast events a hundred years hence, there 
is such explicit reference to the phonograph that it 
appears to be something more than a coincidence. 
Miss Ingelow certainly possessed the idea of such a 
machine, and had she been bom with the inventive 
genius of Edison she might, p^haps, have forestalled 
him. The particular paragraph which has reference 
to the modem "talking machine" is here quoted: 

"He began to describe what was evidently some 
great invention in acoustics, which, he said (confusing 
his century with mine), you are going to find out very 
shortly. 'You know something of the beginnings of 
photography?' I replied that I did. 'Photography,' 
he remarked, 'presents a visible image; cannot you 
imagine something analogous to it which might pre- 
sent an audible image? The difference is really that 
the whole of a photograph is always present to the 
eye, but the acoustigraph only in successive portions. 
The song was sung and the symphony played at first 
and it recorded them, and gave them out in one simul- 
taneous, horrible crash; then when we had once got 
them fixed science soon managed, as it were, to sketch 
the image — and now we can elongate it as much as 
we please.' 'That is very queer!' I exclaimed. 'Do 
you mean to tell me these notes and those voices are 
only the ghosts of sounds?' 'Not in any other sense,' 
he answered, 'than you might call a photograph a 
ghost of sight' " 



"The phonograph," relates a writer in an old num- 
ber of the New York Herald, "came to the Edison 
laboratory and the first baby to the Edison home about 
the same time, and when the baby was old enough 
to say 'Goo-goo' and pull the great inventor's hair 
in a most disrespectful manner, the phonograph was 
near enough perfection to capture the baby talk for 
preservation among the family archives. So Mr. 
Edison filled up several rolls with these pretty articu- 
lations and laid them carefully away. 

" But this was not sufficient. The most picturesque 
thing about the baby's utterances was its crying, and 
the record of this its fond father determined to secure. 
How it would entertain him in his old age, he thought, 
to start the phonograph a-going and hear again the 
baby wails of his firstborn! So one afternoon Mr. 
Edison tore himself away from his work, and climbed 
the big hill leading to his house. He went in a great 
hurry, for he is a man who grudges every working 
moment from his labors. A workman followed at 
his heels, carrying the only phonograph that at that 
time had been sufficiently completed to accomplish 
really good results. 

"Reaching home and the nursery, Mr. Edison started 
the phonograph and brought the baby in front of it. 
But the baby didn't cry. Mr. Edison tumbled the 
yoimgster about, and rumpled its hair and did all 
sorts of things, but still the baby didn't cry. Then 
the inventor made dreadful faces, but the baby thought 
they were very fimny, and crowed lustily. So back 
to the laboratory went Mr. Edison in a very unpleasant 
frame of mind, for the baby's untimely good-humor 
had cost him an hour of work. The phonograph was 
also taken back. 

"But he didn't give it up. The next afternoon he 


went home again, and the phonograph with him. 
But if the baby was good-natured the day before, this 
time it was absolutely cherubic. There was nothing 
at all that its father could do that didn't make the 
baby laugh. Even the phonograph with its tiny 
whirring wheels the baby thought was meant for its 
special entertainment, and gurgled joyously. So back 
to work the inventor went again with a temper positively 
ruffled. The next day and the next he tried it, but 
all to no purpose. The baby would not cry even when 
waked suddenly from sleep. 

"But to baffle Edison is only to inflame his deter- 
mination, which, as has been remarked before, is one 
of the secrets of his success. So at length, after much 
thought, he made a mighty resolve. It took a vast 
amount of determination on his part to screw his 
courage to the point of committing the awful deed, 
but he succeeded at last, and one morning, when he 
knew his wife was down town, he went quietly home 
with the phonograph and stole into the nursery, where 
the baby greeted him with its customary glee. 

"Starting the machine, Mr. Edison ordered the 
nurse to leave the room. Then he took the baby 
on his knee and bared its chubby little leg. He took 
the tender flesh between his thumb and finger, clenched 
his teeth, shut his eyes tight, and made ready to — yes, 
actually to pinch the baby's leg. But just at the fateful 
moment the nurse peeped through the door, and, 
perceiving the horrid plot, flounced in and rescued 
the baby in the nick of time. Mr. Edison breathed 
a mighty sigh of relief as he gathered up the phono- 
graph and went back to the laboratory. He then 
gave up the project of phonographing the baby's 

"But not lojig afterwards he accomplished his pur- 


pose in spite of everything, and quite unexpectedly, 
too. As soon as the baby was old enough to 'take 
notice' its mother took it down to the laboratory one 
sunny day, and when the big machinery was started 
a-roaring, the baby screwed up its face, opened its 
mouth, and emitted a series of woful screams that 
made Mr. Edison leap to his feet. ' Stop the machin- 
ery and start the phonograph,' he shouted, and the 
record of his baby's crying was there and then accom- 
/^Of all Edison's inventions the phonograph probably 
• caused the greatest sensation. There was something 
so inexpressibly weird in the idea of capturing speech 
and preserving it for centuries to come, that the in- 
ventor was regarded more than ever as a ** Wizard." 
Every one wanted to hear the phonograph, and as 
soon as it was possible to make the machines a number 
were despatched to all parts of the world. In England 
and on the Continent it was the talk of the hour, and 
monopolized the attention of crowned heads and 
commoners alike, to the exclusion of everything else. 
Eidison's name was in everybody's mouth, and if he 
had visited France at that time he would probably 
have been hailed more rapturously than even Napoleon 
when he escaped from Elba.) But though he would 
not at that time risk visiting the Old World himself 
(he hates to b^ lionized), he sent several of his best 
machines, one of which he despatched by his faithful 
co-worker, A. T. E. Wangemann, the manager of 
the Phonograph Experimental Department, to Berlin. 
This was in 1888, and the young Emperor of Germany 
had expressed the liveliest interest in the invention. 
As soon as it became known that Mr. Edison's repre- 
sentative was in Berlin, together with one of the 
'^ talking machines," there was intense excitement. 


The newspapers were full of more or less exaggerated 
accounts of what the wonderful instrument would do, 
though few in that city had yet heard it. It was to 
be shown first of all to Emperor William. 

At his Majesty's special request, Mr. Wangemann 
took the phonograph one morning to the Palace, 
where, in the Emperor's private apartments, he ex- 
plained how the machine was worked. He took it 
apart, put it together again, explained the principles, 
and made records, until the young monarch knew 
almost as much about the phonograph as did the 
inventor. But his * Majesty was not satisfied until 
he, too, had taken the thing to bits, put it together 
again, made records, and was able to explain things 
as readily as Mr. Wangemann. Then he desired 
the latter to bring the machine to the Palace again 
that evening in order that the Court might listen to 
it. He would not be required to lecture on the subject 
as his Majesty himself would attend to that part of 
the entertainment. 

Mr. Wangemann, of course, was quite agreeable 
and that night a brilliant assembly gathered at the 
Palace to hear the latest Edison wonder. The aston- 
ishment of those present, however, was increased a 
hundredfold when the Emperor himself appeared 
as lecturer, exhibiting the machine and explaining 
its mechanism as though he had spent his life in the 
Edison laboratory. With admiration they listened 
to the young monarch discourse on acoustics, sound- 
waves, and vibrations, and when he inserted a record, 
adjusted the machinery, set the electric motor going, 
and spoke to his audience through the medium of the 
phonograph, the excitement was intense, if suppressed. 
The royd lecturer remained for a couple of hours, 
alternately explaining details and reproducing records, 


after which he withdrew, leaving behind him the im- 
pression among his courtiers that if the phonograph 
were wonderful the Emperor was more so. 

While Mr. Wangemann was still in Berlin, the 
Emperor again sent for him and requested that he 
would make some records of the playing of the Court 
orchestra. For this purpose the band assembled in 
the concert chamber, the performers being arranged 
according to their usual positions. Mr. Wangemann 
explained to the conductor that he would like to place 
the band a little differently, putting certain instruments 
a little further back and bringing others more to the 
front But the conductor, a hot-tempered German, 
flatly declined to change the position of his men, — they 
had always been placed so, and even for the phono- 
graph, or the great inventor himself, he was not going 
to alter them. In vain Dr. Wangemann argued with 
him that for the making of a successful record the 
instruments had to be arranged according to their 
power and quality, the less obtrusive tones being 
nearer and the loud or shrill tones more distant. But 
it was no good, the conductor was unconvinced, and 
the band would play according to his views or not at all. 

Then Dr. Wangemann appealed to the Emperor, 
and to convince his Majesty he took a cylinder of 
the playing of the orchestra in the positions the con- 
ductor insisted they should be. His Majesty listened 
critically to the result. Nothing but a confusion of 
sounds assailed his ears. Was that his own match- 
less orchestra? Impossible. He ordered the con- 
ductor to place his men in any position Dr. Wange- 
mann desired, and the musician sadly obeyed. Then 
the phonograph was adjusted and a record made. 
The difference was extraordinary, all the beauties of 
tone and orchestration being dearly brought out. 


The Emperor was delighted. The conductor apolo- 
gized, and in compliment to Dr. Wangemann his 
Majesty ordered the orchestra to play that evening 
in the position it would be if performing for the pho- 
nograph. At all future Imperial functions, however, 
the bandsmen returned to their ordinary places, greatly 
to the relief of the conductor and the comfort of the 

Since then the German Emperor has taken the 
greatest interest in the progress made by the phono- 
graph, and when a few years ago he was asked to give a 
record of his voice to be deposited in the Phonographic , 
Archives at Harvard University, he graciously con- 
sented. The application was made by Dr. Edward 
Scripture, a psychologist, of Yale University, through 
the United States Ambassador in Berlin, and in a 
memorandum sent to the Court Marshal, Dr. Scrip- 
ture wrote: "The Phonographic Archives are to 
include records from such persons as will presumably 
have permanent historical interest for America. The 
importance of the undertaking can be estimated by 
considering what would have been the present value 
of voice records by Demosthenes, Shakespeare, or 
Frederick the Great. I wish to record his Majesty's 
voice as the first European record deposited in the 
Archives." The Emperor received Dr. Scripture one 
Sunday after morning church, and referred to the 
occasion when Dr. Wangemann paid his first visit to 
Berlin so. many years previously. During the making 
of. the record the Emperor was alone with the phono- 
graph. He spoke into it twice. The first cylinder, 
made specially for Harvard University, contained 
observations on Frederick the Great, while the other, 
intended for the Congressional Library and the National 
Museum, Washington, was a short disquisition on 

W o 





"Fortitude in Pain." His Majesty afterwards listened 
to some special records which Dr. Scripture had brought 
for the amusement of the Imperial family. 

During the early days of the phonograph it formed 
the basis of many amusing jokes in the Edison labora- 
tory. The "boys" were not slow to find out that 
the matrix, after having been used to record one con- 
versation or poem, as the case might be, would also 
admit of another being superinduced, the two being 
reported in a very jumbling manner. In this way 
a lot of fun was obtained. On one occasion the afifect- 
ing words of the first verse of "Bingen on the Rhine" 
came out as follows: 

''A soldier of the legion lay dying in Algiers, 
'Oh, shut up! Oh, bag your head!' 
There was lack of woman's nursing, there was 
'Oh, give us a rest I' 

lack of woman's tears. 
•Dry upl' 
But a comrade stood beside him while his life 
'Oh, what are you giving us? Oh,' 

blood ebbed away, 
'cheese itl' 
And bent with pitying glances to hear what he 
'Oh, you can't read poetry! Let* 

might say. 
The dying soldier faltered, and he took that com- 
•PoUce! Police! Po-' 

rade's hand, 
And he said, 'I shall never see my own, my, 
'Oh, put him out! Oh, cork' 

'native land.' 

Edison enjoyed these phonographic liberties and 
laughed like a schoolboy. The inventor himself was 


not slow to have his joke with the phonograph, and 
once hid a machine in a guest's room. Just as his 
friend was about to get into bed a sepulchral voice 
exclaimed, "Eleven o'clock, one hour more!" The 
visitor sat up for some time in anything but a peaceful 
frame of mind, but as nothing further happened he 
composed his nerves and lay down again. But sleep 
refused to visit his eyelids. He lay awake wondering 
what the end of the hour was to bring when the mid- 
night chime soimded, and a second voice, deeper and 
more sepulchral than the first, groaned out, "Twelve 
o'clock, prepare to die!" This was a little too much 
for the astonished guest, who leaped out* of bed, opened 
the door, and dashed into the landing, where he was 
confronted by the inventor, who was holding his sides 
with suppressed laughter. The mystery was explained 
and the guest returned to his bed, much relieved, if 
somewhat abashed, that all his fright had been caused 
by a phonograph. 

Many interesting experiments were made with the 
phonograph, and it was soon found that by reversing 
the machinery while working the most remarkable 
sound effects could be produced. One writer on the 
subject says: "It is impossible for the human voice 
to be so manipulated as to produce sounds exactly 
backwards. Even with the letter *A,' which is one 
of the simplest sounds made by the voice, the articu- 
lation cannot be reversed. At the first thought it would 
appear that * A' is 'A' no matter how it is said, back- 
wards, or forwards, or sideways, but the phonograph 
shows this to be a mistake. The little intonation that 
follows the first sharp sound of the letter is scarcely 
noticeable when spoken, but when the phonograph 
is reversed it seems that it is a most important part of 
the sound. It is as though the phonograph were 


trying to say 'ear,' but could not quite make it. The 
simplest sounds, such as the alphabet or counting 
from I to 10, are as confusing as Greek, and a com- 
plete sentence is worse than unintelligible. Musical 
sounds are reversed in the same way, and the intonation 
of a banjo makes that instrument sound like a church 
organ, while piano music would be thought to come 
from a harmonium by nine out of ten musicians. 
Such familiar pieces as 'Home, Sweet Home,' lose 
their identity completely. In some cases music that 
is entirely new and very sweet is produced by the 
reversing process. This opens a new field for com- 
posers, as they can take ideas from a reversed phono- 
graph without being accused of plagiarism." 

The first public exhibition of the phonograph in 
England took place at the Crystal Palace in 1888, but 
prior to that a "private view" was given at Norwood 
in the presence of a distinguished gathering, including 
Mr. Gladstone, Sir Morejl Mackenzie, the Earl of 
Aberdeen, Lord Rowton, Sir John Fowler, Sir William 
Hunter, and others equally noted. The entertainment 
consisted of various musical items specially chosen 
to display the phonograph's remarkable capabilities, 
a message from Edison, an "Address" to the London 
press from the phonograph itself, and a "Salutation," 
also supposed to have originated with the "talking 
machine." Mr. Edison's message was in the form 
of a private phonographic letter addressed to his agent, 
but nevertheless it was listened to by those present 
with greater interest than the songs or instrumental 
pieces which had preceded it. As this was the first 
letter in the form of a phonogram ever made by Edison, 
we cannot refrain from quoting it. The following 
is an exact transcript : 


''AheicI In my Laboratory in Orange, 
New Jersey. 

" June 16, 1888, 3 o'clock a.1£. 

"Friend Gouraud, — Ahem! This is my first 
mailing phonogram. It will go to you in the regular 
United States mail from New York via Southampton, 
North German Lloyd Steamer Eider. I send you 
by Mr. Hamilton a new phonograph, the first one of 
the new model which has just left my hands. 

"It has been put together very hurriedly, and is 
not finished, as you will see. I have sent you a quan- 
tity of experimental phonogram blanks, so that you 
can talk back to me. I will send you phonograms 
of talk and music by every mail leaving here until 
we get the best thing for the purpose of mailing. 

"Mrs. Edison and the baby are doing well. The 
baby's articulation is quite loud enough, but a trifle 
indistinct; it can be improved, but is not bad for a 
first experiment. 

"With kind regards, 



The greetings of the phonograph itself were in 
poetry as well as prose. The "Address" to the Lon- 
don press was given out in a clear, distinct voice as 
follows : 

"Gentlemen, — In the name of Edison, to whose 
rare genius, incomparable patience, and indefatigable 
industry I owe my being, I greet you. I thank you 
for the honor you do me by your presence here to-day. 
My only regret is that my master is not here to meet 
you in the flesh as he is in the voice. But in his absence 
I should be failing in my duty, as well as in my pleasure, 


did I not take this, my first opportunity, to thank you 
and all the press of the great city of London, both 
present and absent, for the generous and flattering 
reception with which my coming to the Mother Country 
has been heralded by you to the world." 

The "Phonograph's Salutation" was composed 
and spoken into the machine by the Rev. Horatius 
Nelson Powers, D.D., of Piermont on the Hudson. 
The poem is said to have received the commendations 
of Mr. Gladstone himself: 


" I seize the palpitating air, I hoard 

Music and speech. All lips that breathe are mine; 
I speak, the inviolable word 

Authenticates its origin and sign. 

I am a tomb, a Paradise, a shrine, 
An angel, prophet, slave, immortal friend; 

My living records, in their native tone. 
Convict the knave, and disputations end. 

In me are souls embalmed. I am an ear. 
Flawless as truth, and truth's own tongue am I. 

I am a resurrection; men may hear 
The quick and dead converse, as I reply. 

Hail I English shores, and homes, and marts of peace. 
New trophies, Gouraud, yet are to be won. 

May sweetness, light, and brotherhood increase; 
I am the latest bora of Edison." 

Edison was particularly anxious to obtain a record 
of Gladstone's voice, and had given his agent strict 
injunctions, before leaving America, to ask the states- 
man to send him a phonographic message. At this 


''private view" the request was made, and Gladstone 
at once consented. The phonograph was adjusted, 
and into the receiver the late Premier spoke these 
words, addressed to the inventor: "I am profoundly 
indebted to you for, not the entertainment only, but 
the instruction and the marvels of one of the most 
remarkable evenings which it has been my privilege 
to enjoy. Your great country is leading the way in 
the important work of invention. Heartily do we 
wish it well ; and to you, as one of its greatest celeb- 
rities, allow me to offer my hearty good wishes and 
earnest prayers that you may long live to witness its 
triumphs in all that appertains to the well-being of 
mankind. — Gladstone." 

The phonogram made by Gladstone was but the 
first of many which subsequently helped to form a 
wonderful collection of "voices of the great" now 
in the "Wizard's" possession at Llewellyn Park. The 
collection includes records made by Bismarck, Tenny- 
son, Beecher, Browning, and many other famous men 
living at the time of the perfecting of the phonograph. 
Years after Gladstone had "talked back," as Edison 
termed it, the explorer Stanley and his wife visited 
the inventor's laboratory at Orange, and while listen- 
ing to the phonograph Mrs. Stanley said to Edison, 
"Whose voice, of all the great men of the past, would 
you like best to recall and register?" The question 
had never been put to Edison before, and he pondered 
it for some time. Then, in tones which showed clearly 
that he had fully made up his mind, he replied, " Napo- 
leon's." The visitors, somewhat surprised, suggested 
that in past centuries there were voices of other men 
greater than Napoleon. The argument waxed warm, 
but Edison never wavered in his choice. Napoleon's 


was the voice he wanted to hear most, and for it he 
was willing to barter the entire collection of records 
then in his possession. 

The phonograph has made its way into strange 
lands, and there are now probably few places on the 
globe where its voice has not been heard. "In 1897," 
says a writer, "it appeared, for the first time, in Lhassa, 
Thibet, the religious capital of the Buddhist faith. 
To this ancient town no European or other man than 
a Buddhist is supposed to be allowed to penetrate, 
though, as a matter of fact, some Europeans have 
been there and returned safe and soimd. Travellers 
of the Buddhist faith may visit Lhassa if they are 
under no suspicion of being emissaries of the Chris- 
tians. Among such travellers was a certain Burmese 
merchant, who, familiar with the resources of civiliza- 
tion, took with him, to show the Grand Lama, or 
sacred and miraculously appointed Head of the Bud- 
dhist Church, an Edison phonograph. This was a 
good idea on the part of the Burmese trader, for in 
the Buddhist cult great account is made of mechani- 
cally repeated prayers. Praying wheels to reel off 
written or printed prayers are employed, and it struck 
the merchant that if he could introduce a machine 
which would actually repeat the prayers aloud he 
might make a fortune in supplying the apparatus. 

"He succeeded in getting the Grand or Dalai Lama 
and the dignitaries that surroimd him to inspect the 
phonograph, and as he had read into it a chapter of 
the sacred writings of the Buddhists, he was able to 
make it repeat this chapter aloud, to the great aston- 
ishment of the Grand Lama, who thought he was 
witnessing a miracle. The merchant asked the Dalai 
Lama to speak into the machine, and he did so, de- 
claiming the beautiful prayer called 'Om mani padme 


cum,' or * Jewel in the Lotus,' Then the cylinder 
being put in place the phonograph repeated the prayer 
in the Dalai Lama's voice, to the stupefaction and 
great edification of all the auditors. For many days 
thereafter the phonograph was kept busy with this 
and other utterances holy to the Buddhists, and now 
the phonograph has taken its place as the favorite 
'praying machine' of Lhassa." 

In Russia the phonograph did not receive quite so 
hearty a welcome, and it was some time before it was 
looked upon with anything like favor by the Russian 
Government. Even to-day all records have first to 
be submitted to the "Press Censor" before they can 
be enjoyed by the public, and it is a serious offence 
to have in one's possession a cylinder which has not 
been inspected by the censor. Ten years ago in the 
pavilion of the public gardens in Tagonrog the machine 
was exhibited for the first time and attracted large 
crowds. It played and sang and laughed for some 
time undisturbed, imtil a police officer heard the 
machine reciting one of Kirloff's famous fables, but 
with some variations of the original text. The officer 
got suspicious, and, not trusting to his memory, he 
ran at once and got Kirloff's book, and came again to 
listen to the phonograph's version of the fable. To 
his horror he foimd the fable reproduced not at all as 
it was passed by the censorship more than half a cen- 
tury ago. An alarm was raised at once, the higher 
local authorities communicated with, and the manager 
of the pavilion was called upon to explain the con- 
duct of that "speaking mechanical beast." All the 
poor manager could do was to open the mysterious 
inside of the criminal machine, and hand over to the 
authorities the indiscreet cylmder which threatened 
to tell the peaceful inhabitants so many undesirable 









things. But the arrest of the chief criminal was con- 
sidered insufficient, as it could not have acted without 
a human accomplice, and so the poor manager was 
haled to court, sentenced to three months' imprison- 
ment, a heavy fine, and the forfeiture of his phono- 
graph, which was forthwith smashed to pieces by the 
sensitive officials. 

The phonograph has been employed for many queer 
purposes, perhaps the queerest being to assist a certain 
American professor in his study of the language of 
cats. This gentleman interested himself many years 
ago — together with one or two others — in the Simian 
language, but ultimately abandoned the problem of 
interpreting "monkey talk" in order to find out what 
a cat means when it stands on the back fence at night 
and emits those blood-curdling cries which make 
householders so reckless regarding their personal 

"It is not easy," said this gentleman to the writer, 
"to secure good records of cat language, and, in fact, 
I have waited night after night in my backyard for 
the purpose only to be disappointed. It is, of course, 
necessary to place the phonograph pretty near the 
cats' rendezvous in order to bottle up their voices, and 
it is seldom that felines are so absorbed with their 
musical efiforts as to become oblivious to their sur- 
roimdings. One record took me several nights to 
secure, and the reason that I did finally succeed was 
almost due to an accident. These particular cats 
were known for a mile around, and I do not suppose 
there was any one occupying a room looking on the 
back who had not voluntarily lost property in a vain 
endeavor to break up their musical evenings. But 
the cats seemed to lead charmed lives, and the manner 
in which they dodged missiles and at the same time 


continued singing was marvellous. But having made 
up my mind to secure a record of their voices, I crept 
into a dark comer of my yard one night and awaited 
their coming. For four evenings in succession they 
had been tuning up just below my window, and whether 
they had got wind that I was there with the phono- 
graph and felt shy in consequence I don't know, but 
they never showed up that night, though I could hear 
them halfway down the block giving No. 19 a serenade. 
"After waiting about three hours I was so cold that 
I packed up my machine and went to bed, but I had 
scarcely got between the sheets when I heard them 
below singing away as though their hardened hearts 
would burst. I slipped on a pair of trousers, grabbed 
the phonograph, opened the back door and crept out. 
They were on the top of the water-butt, and I was 
quietly making my way towards them when I fell 
over the india-rubber plant and with an ear-splitting 
yell they disappeared. The next night and the next 
I had no better luck, and I was almost giving up in 
despair when a friend suggested that I should place 
the phonograph in the yard, run an electric wire from 
the motor into my room and await the cats' arrival 
comfortably in bed. That very night I tried the experi- 
ment. Placing the phonograph in a spot which ap- 
peared to be a favorite one with the cats (to judge by 
the queer things I used to pick up near it) I adjusted 
the horn, arranged the wire so that by pressing a button 
I could start the motor, and then returned to bed. 
I was just beginning to feel sleepy when they arrived. 
They must have taken their stand quite dose to the 
phonograph, and it wasn't long before they began 
their choir practice. When they were fairly started 
I pressed the button and set the machinery in motion. 
The yowling became awful after a bit, and I was very 


much afraid that the missiles which began to fly would 
strike my machine, but fortunately they didn't, and 
when I thought I had secured a sufficient quantity of 
the cats' vocal powers I put on some clothes and brought 
in the phonograph. When I tested the record I found 
it an excellent one. I was exceptionally lucky in this 
instance, for a few nights later the cats completely 
and mysteriously disappeared. I am afraid that they 
finally fell victims to their art, and we shall never hear 
their voices again, save in the phonograph. 

"I have, by the aid of Mr. Edison's invention, se- 
cured records of cats purring, cats in pain (a wounded 
or sick cat emits a peculiarly mournful sound quite 
different from its ordinary voice), cats spitting, and so 
forth. It is not difficult to secure the record of an 
angry cat's voice, for all you have to do is to hold the 
animal near the mouth of the phonograph and give 
its tail a twist. It wiU make plenty of noise then, but 
I never follow this method myself as I only wish to 
obtain records of the natural voice. All together I 
have secured twenty-five cat records, which repeat 
twenty-five different cries. I believe that when a cat 
yowls at night she has some object in view other than 
that of annoying the neighbors, though I know the 
majority of people wouldn't believe you if you said 
so. I am convinced there is a cat language just as 
there is a Simian language, and if I live long enough 
I am going to find out what it means. I feel I have 
a difficult task before me, but with the aid of the * talk- 
ing machine' I think I shall succeed. 

''Sometimes I place the phonograph near my own 
cat (a quiet respectable parlor animal that doesn't 
go out at night) and turn on a few nocturnal yowls 
for her especial benefit. When she hears the sounds 
of the other cats having a good time she races roimd 


the room in a remarkable mamier and does her best 
to perform a feline harlequin act through the window. 
It is perfectly evident that she knows what is being 
said, and if she'd only respond in some intelligible 
way I should begin to understand. However, I am 
not without hope. 

"I have succeeded in determining by the aid of 
the phonograph the diflFerent emotions of cats, and 
can tell fairly accurately which .is the cry of fear, of 
delight, of contempt, of amusement, and of affection. 
I can also tell the peculiar cry a cat makes when he 
or she wishes to attract a friend's attention, and also 
the sound of warning on the approach of an enemy. 
In a short time I intend to give a serious lecture on 
the Feline Language illustrated with cat cries on the 
phonograph. People will laugh, of course, but I hope 
in the end that they will come to believe with me that 
even cats have a language of their own, and one which, 
if we study sufficiently, we shall some day understand." 

As a matter of fact, the phonograph has been put 
to queerer uses than Edison ever anticipated. Here is 
one case which greatly amused the inventor when he 
heard of it. About two years ago in one of the busiest 
parts of London, where almost the entire road is taken 
up with costers' barrows, Edison's invention played 
an important part in helping the proprietor of a big 
stand to dispose of his entire stock of "greens." 

Around the well-filled barrow a crowd of hilarious 
buyers and idlers congregated, while one could dis- 
tinctly hear above the general clamor a voice in coster 
accents declaring that "termarters" were "tuppence 
a pahnd" and "green peas fippence the 'alf peck." 
Under ordinary circumstances, of course, this informa- 
tion would not have attracted more than the usual 
number of Saturday night buyers, but the reason of the 


jostling crowd became clear when it was observed that 
the voice proceeded apparently from the very midst of 
the vegetables, while the owner of the cart, a delicate, 
weak-looking man, stood quietly by attending to his 
customers' wants without saying a word. 

When asked to explain the meaning of this strange 
affair the coster replied in husky tones that some 
months ago he had almost entirely lost his voice through 
an attack of fever, • and was subsequently in great 
danger of also losing his trade through being unable to 
announce the quality and price of his goods in tones 
equal to those of his competitors, when a friend sug- 
gested that he should engage the services of a phono- 
graph to discharge that duty for him. 

The idea was a good one, and the coster promptly 
adopted it with the most satisfactory results, the 
"talking machine" generally enabling him to sell 
out his entire stock while his rivals were still making 
the night-air hideous with their vocal efforts to attract 
customers. The records were made for him by a 
friendly coster whose voice was the pride and admira- 
tion of the entire "push-cart" community. 

Frank D. Millet, and other artists, often make use 
of the phonograph while painting a portrait, as they 
declare that it helps to banish the bored look which 
a subject usually assumes when sitting for any length 
of time. In the case of children especially they find 
that the little one is able to sit much longer without 
becoming restless or fatigued if the phonograph is 
turning out melodies or funny speeches. The smile 
becomes natural and the expression interested — a 
state of things which, imder ordinary circumstances, is 
sometimes impossible to obtain. 

Many other amusing, interesting, or remarkable 
incidents in connection with the phonograph might 


be related were it not that their recital would possibly 
prove tedious, for so accustomed have we become to 
the "talking machine," and so true is it that familiarity 
breeds contempt that it is now difficult to underst&d 
the tremendous sensation it created twenty years and 
more ago. The rising generation who have always 
had the phonograph with them cannot be expected 
to regard it as so great a wonder as do those who have 
followed its development from its inception, but, 
nevertheless, even in the dim future, it will probably 
still remain one of the most marvellous inventions of 
the nineteenth century. 



It was during the year 1887 that Edison invented 
the " Kinetoscope," or moving picture machine. The 
idea was not an original one, nor does he claim it to 
have been, but frankly states that it was suggested to 
him by that interesting little instrument called the 
Zoetrope. Edison had known this toy for many years, 
and after he had invented the phonograph he ^gued 
that it should be possible to make a machine ^^ which 
would do for the eye what the phonograph does for 
the ear." Later, when the kinetoscope was perfected, 
he declared that it would be comparatively easy to 
combine the two inventions, and with their aid give 
an entire opera on the stage of a theatre — the acting 
and singing being supplied entirely by the kinetoscope 
and phonograph. During the spring of 1907 the writer 
questioned Edison on the subject, and he replied: 

"The time is coming when the moving picture and 
the phonograph will be combined so naturally that ll/^]i)lHi( 
we shall be able to show a trumpeter or any other musi- 
cian so life-like in appearance that when he puts his 
instrument to his lips it will be impossible for any 
one to say positively that it is not the living man him- 
self who is playing. I look forward to the day when 
we shall give grand opera in so realistic a manner that 
the critics themselves will be deceived. We are work- 


I JHU^'^ 


ing on these lines now, and though the difficulties axe 
great we shall overcome them by and by." 

The invention of the kinetoscope took Edison into 
a realm of science into which he had not previously 
penetrated — that of photography. Up to the time 
when the idea of the kinetoscope first occurred to 
him he had never taken a snapshot, developed a plate, 
or, in fact, touched a camera. But he soon saw that 
if he was to have any success with his new enterprise 
he must study the subject of photography from A to Z, 
and with his customary enthusiasm he threw himself 
at once into the work of mastering the art. He real- 
ized that the pictures, to indicate natural movements 
successfully when thrown on a screen, would have 
to be taken with extraordinary celerity — from forty 
to sixty a second, in fact. By this means only would 
the eye be imable to detect the change from one posi- 
tion to the other. 

Edison endeavored to find plates (films) which 
would be quick enough to do this, and discovered 
that there were none in existence. Thereupon he 
opened a photographic laboratory and by innumerable 
experiments succeeded in making films sufficiently 
quick for his purpose. He learned all there was to 
learn regarding the taking, developing, printing, and 
toning of negatives, and soon began to make discov- 
eries which were of inestimable benefit to him in the 
perfecting of the kinetoscope. In this work Exlison 
had the assistance of W. K. L. Dickson, who labored 
unceasingly with his chief in the development of the 
machine. The two men worked together early and 
late, and thousands of experiments were made before 
the results satisfied them. 

From the very first, of course, it was necessary that 
the photographs should be taken on strips of film, 


and literally mUes of this sensitive material were ex- 
posed for the purpose of obtaining interesting sub- 
jects for the kinetoscope. Every sort of incident was 
photographed, and the assistants in the laboratory 
were called upon to go through all kinds of "tiuns" 
(or "stunts," as they called them) for the benefit of 
the kinetoscope. Fred Ott, who was known to occa- 
sionally indulge in the luxury of an ear-splitting sneeze, 
was requested to give an illustration of his famous 
performance before the moving picture camera. He 
protested at first but was compelled to yield, and by 
some means or other known only to himself was able 
to go through all the grimaces of a real, bond-fide 
sneeze while the camera clicked away at the rate of 
fifty pictures to the second. Boys in the laboratory 
were told to turn somersaults, stand on their heads, 
play leap-frog, and perform other manoeuvres sup- 
posed to be dear to youth, while various members of 
Edison's staff were "taken" busily engaged experi- 
menting. When these pictures were thrown on to 
the screen they caused the liveliest interest and amuse- 
ment. Edison himself was asked to give "sittings," 
but declined. Then when the machine came nearer to 
being the perfected thing it is to-day a stage was put 
up in the Orange laboratory and various celebrated 
dancers came down from New York — Miss Loie Fuller 
among the niunber — and rehearsed their dances be- 
fore the kinetoscope. All this, of course, cost a good 
deal of money, and it is more than probable that this in- 
vention gobbled up at least a hxmdred thousand dollars 
before it could be considered a commercial success. 

Later on Mr. Dickson obtained special permission 
to make some moving pictures of Pope Leo XIH., 
on which occasion he took no fewer than 17,000 photo- 
graphs. "It was only by great diplomacy," said Mr. 


Dickson afterwards, ^'that I obtained the necessary 
permission, and it was a good deal due to the kindness 
of Count Pecci, the Pope's nephew, that I succeeded. 
And after I had entered the Vatican and commenced 
'operations' I was much afraid that the Pope would 
send out word that he was too fatigued to appear. 
True, he had given me an appointment, but I imagined 
that indisposition, or the weather, or a dozen imlooked- 
for events would cause a postponement. But I was 
mistaken. His Holiness had set a date in April, and — 
kept it. I made 17,000 photographs during that and 
subsequent days, and all the time the Pope was kind- 
ness itself. I and my assistant had to dress in black, 
and before we commenced the work of photographing 
his Holiness we were drilled in various formalities 
which had to be observed. The Pope himself was ex- 
tremely interested in everything, and I had to explain 
the whole process to him. 

"The first series of pictures were made while the 
Pontiff was on his way to the Sistine Chapel, being 
driven thither in his carriage. I explained to him 
that in order to obtain good results it would be neces- 
sary to have the hood down, and he cheerfully con- 
sented to its being lowered. He held an umbrella 
over his head, for the sim was hot, but this he closed 
as soon as I began to make the pictures. Another 
series of photographs showed the Pope, with uplifted 
finger, bestowing the Apostolic benediction on an 
imaginary crowd, while a third depicted him walking 
in the Vatican grounds. The Pope afterwards wit- 
nessed many of these moving pictures, and showed 
unboimded delight and wonder at the faithfulness of 
the reproductions. *Now,' he said on this occasion, 
turning to Cardinal RampoUa, 'I know how I look 
when I am blessing my people.' ". 




During these days when rumor was busy with the 
sensations" to be depicted by means of the kineto- 
scope, an announcement appeared in a great number 
of American papers to the effect that Edison had per- 
mitted a bond-fide prize fight to take place in his labora- 
tory for a series of moving pictures, the pugilists being 
the noted Jim Corbett and a Jerseyman. One-oimce 
gloves were used, and the prize was a purse of five 
thousand dollars, it was stated. This, however, was 
an exaggeration, as no purse was offered. 

Since those da3rs the kinetoscope has been acciised 
of reproducing greater sensations than a prize fight 
— among other things the agonized contortions of 
a negro being burned at the stake — but these are 
merely "newspaper stories" which have originated 
in the brains of imaginative space writers. Of the 
many thousand series of moving pictures which have 
issued from the Edison laboratory there has not been 
a single instance of one calculated to produce a "sen- 
sation" in the generally accepted sense of the word. 
And the same thing may be said of Edison's phono- 
graphic records. 

Another invention on which Edison worked soon 
after he had conceived the idea of the kinetoscope 
was the magnetic ore separator — a means whereby 
the magnetic substances may be separated from the 
non-magnetic. The origin of this invention is inter- 
esting. It is stated that Eklison was one day walking 
along the sea-coast when he came across a patch of 
black sand. Curious to know what it contained, he 
filled his pockets with it, and when he returned to 
the laboratory he poured it out on to the bench. As 
he did so, a workman stumbled against the table and 
dropped the big magnet he was carrying across the 
sand. When he picked it up again it was covered 


with tiny black grains, proving the sand to consist 
chiefly of metallic particles. Edison took the magnet 
in his own hands, and sitting there became lost in 
thought. His mind was busy with fresh ideas which 
the accidental dropping of the magnet had generated. 
He saw no reason why magnetic attraction should not 
be employed to separate the metal from low-grade 
ores, and there and then he commenced his experi- 
ments which ultimately gave birth to what is now 
known as the magnetic ore separator. 

For many years Edison struggled with the problem 
and finally brought it to such a state of perfection that, 
by his system, a piece of ore weighing a couple of tons 
may be crushed to powder, and the metal extracted 
by means of an electro-magnet. The method is an 
extremely simple one, the crushed ore being allowed to 
fall in a steady stream from a hopper past the electro- 
magnet, which attracts the iron particles and causes 
them to curve away and fall into a bin under it. The 
non-magnetic substances, being uninfluenced by the 
magnet, fall straight and are collected in another bin 
placed directly beneath the hopper. 

In connection with this separation of ores by mag- 
netic attraction, Edison had to invent a tremendous 
amount of machinery, which included crushers, pul- 
verizers, conveyers, and presses, before the scheme 
was workable. Then he bought a big tract of land 
in Sussex County and commenced operations. A 
little town soon sprang up, which was called "Edison" 
after the founder, and about two hundred neat houses 
were erected. The work of quarrying and crushing 
the ore continued for several years, and Edison is 
said to have put several hundred thousands of dollars 
into the venture ; but the shipping facilities were bad, 
and ten years ago the works were shut down and the 


inhabitaats began gradually to creep away, until 
to-day "Edison" is deserted. The magnetic ore 
separator is still regarded as the best and simplest 
method of separating iron from low-grade ores, and 
the system is carried on in many parts of the wcJrld. 
In Edison's case, however, it was one of those things 
which, while successful as an invention, was not so 
financially, and he therefore closed down the mine 
and turned his attention to other things more remu- 
nerative. No one lives at Edison now, and it is as 
lonely and silent as the " Deserted Village." Many of 
the buildings still stand, but they are falling quickly 
to decay, and the little houses where the miners and 
operators used to dwell, and which were lighted by 
electricity and contained all "modem conveniences," 
seem to regard one in mute protest against their aban- 
donment. At one time Edison was the most up-to- 
date mming town in America, and people came for 
miles to see the magnetic ore separator, but when the 
works were closed down there was nothing there which 
would support a coiomunity, and so the inhabitants 
drifted away. A few hopeful ones remained behind 
and endeavored to eke out a living, but it was too strenu- 
ous an existence, and after a few months they too fled. 
The inventor never once revisited the little town named 
in his honor, after finally turning his back upon it now 
nearly ten years ago. 

A far more prosperous undertaking is Edison's 
method of turning rock and limestone into cement. 
His works for this purpose are situated at Stewarts- 
ville, N. J., and cover close upon eight hxmdred acres 
of ground. A short description of his methods in 
this line may not be without interest. The rock after 
blasting is picked up by ninety-ton vulcan steam 
shovek, which are the most powerful things of the 



kind in the world. One of these mighty "scoops 
can pick up a six-ton piece of rock as though it were 
a wahiut and handle it as freely as a child would a 
rubber ball. These giant pieces of stone are loaded 
on "skips" and drawn by locomotives about a mile 
distant to the "crushers." In the crushing house are 
terrible-looking rollers capable of breaking up a five- 
ton piece of rock as easily as a pair of nut crackers 
would smash a filbert. These rolls are five feet long 
and fifteen feet in circumference, each roller alone, 
without any of its appurtenances, weighing twenty- 
five tons. They are made of chilled iron plates and 
rotate in opposite directions. The motors which 
work these rollers are enclosed in dust-proof chambers, 
for otherwise they would soon become clogged with 
the powdery particles which rise from the crushers 
like gigantic douds. The rock is dumped into these 
crushers direct from the "skips," and some idea of 
the former's appetite may be gathered from the fact 
that they eat up no less than fifteen tons of material 
every four minutes. 

After passing through these giant rollers the rock 
is dropped into hoppers feeding a set of thirty-six- 
inch rolls — so called because they are thirty-six inches 
long and thirty-six inches in diameter. These rolls 
break up the rock in pieces about the size of one's 
fist, after which it passes through a second and third 
set of crushers, finally emerging broken up in pieces 
of the size of lump sugar. The rock is now ready 
for the drying room. Here it is dropped upon grates 
heated by gases and shaken until thoroughly dried. 
Then it goes to the stockhouse — an immense building 
500 feet long containing ten bins, each one capable 
of holding 1500 tons. Six of these bms are used for 
the cement rock, three for carbonate of lime, and one 









for mixing. Mixing is absolutely necessary, for the 
rock never contains the same amomit of lime, and in 
order to give satisfactory results the proportions must 
be "just so." 

The cement rock and the limestone are next taken 
to the storehouse, which contains two bins each with 
a capacity of sixty tons. Here the chemist's formula 
is kept and carefully followed by the mixers. So 
much limestone must go with so much rock. The 
quantities are weighed automatically by a process 
highly interesting to the visitor. Each bin (one con- 
taining limestone and the other rock) deposits so much 
of its contents into the scale, which is worked electri- 
cally so that when the right quantity has been dropped 
into the weighing pan further supply is instantly cut 
oflE by the scale beam closing an electrical circuit. The 
cement rock and limestone then pass through chutes 
into a feed roll which thoroughly mixes the two mate- 
rials. After passing under chalk grinding rolls the 
mixture arrives at the summit of the "blower-house," 
from which it falls through grids. As it falls a current 
of air is passed through it, the fine dust being carried 
to a large settling chamber where it accumulates in 
miniature moimtains at the bottom. The coarser 
material which has defied the "blowers" is returned 
to the chalk crushers for further reduction. The 
pressure of these rollers varies from 14,000 to 18,000 
pounds per square inch. The cement is finally passed 
through a 200-mesh screen, "bagged" and "barrelled" 
by machinery, and conveyed to the forwarding-houses. 

The roasters are 150 feet long, made of cast iron 
lined with fire-brick, and built in the form of huge 
cylindrical shells. On the outside they are nine feet 
in diameter and on the inside six feet. Each roaster 
can turn out 900 barrels of cement every twenty-four 


hours. As a rule the works are in action during the 
night as well as the day, and the great crushers revolve 
ceaselessly from year's end to year's end. Most of 
the machinery used in* these cement works is the result 
of Edison's inventive mind, and there are a himdred 
other interesting facts connected with the making of 
Portland cement by his remarkable system whidb it 
is impossible to touch upon here. Mention, however, 
may be made of a wonderful electrical signalling appa- 
ratus recently erected whereby the manager in his 
office may commimicate with the heads of the different 
departments without leaving his desk, while by means 
of an "annimciator" system a foreman can call a 
messenger at any time during the night or day. There 
is also a remarkable system of oiling whereby every 
part of the machinery is automatically lubricated. 
The oil passes continuously through the machinery, 
is collected (by gravity) in tanks, filtered, and again 
used. After filtration and re-filtration the oil is pumped 
into tanks situated at the top of each building, fiom 
which it again drops to the different parts of the machin- 
ery. The supply is regulated by means of needle 

Edison is also the originator of a novel method of 
building houses of solid concrete. He was some 
years working out the details of this scheme to his own 
satisfaction, but twelve months ago he completed his 
experiments and now it is possible to ''build" a ten- 
room house in about four days. The simple method 
is as follows: a steel mould is made into which the 
concrete is pumped, allowed to harden, and the mould 
then removed. At present an entire house has not 
been made in one piece. The foundations, walls, 
floors, and ceilings are made by pouring concrete into 
separate moulds and afterwards piecing them together. 


Even the window frames are temporary shells into 
which concrete is pumped. When these shells are 
removed they leave behind solid window frames which 
it will take centuries to weaken. The origin of Edison's 
idea is said to have been the increasing cost of brick 
and lumber. 

The time will most certainly come when whole 
houses will be turned out in one piece, though each 
part is now separately moulded. These metallic 
moulds may be ornate or plain as the fancy of the 
householder dictates, and it will be no dearer to have 
the latter than the former. It only requires some 
smart architects to draw up designs for a few houses 
of different patterns and of about the size to suit the 
family of the average mechanic. The moulds made 
for each part of the house may even be joined together 
before the concrete has been pumped in. If more 
convenient, then the parts may be made separately 
and joined together with cement afterwards. The 
concrete will dry in a few hours, though it is considered 
better to leave the liquid material in the moulds for 
four days, when the latter may be removed with per- 
fect confidence that a solid and almost bomb-proof 
house will remain behind. 

Moulds for a house of ten rooms would cost about 
$25,000, but they could be used five himdred times 
if necessary, so that the charge of $500 for a dwelling 
of the size mentioned would pay the builder very 
handsomely. This idea of erecting houses in moulds 
is a very simple and feasible one, and it seems strange 
that it should have occurred to no one until Edison 
suggested it. In America to-day many houses are 
being erected according to Edison's plans, and are 
fulfilling all that was expected of them. 



Edison's work as an inventor extends over a most 
varied field. In addition to his better-known patents, 
granted in connection with the development of the 
electric lamp, the phonograph, the telephone, ore- 
milling machinery, and storage-batteries, the inven- 
tions include typewriters, electric pens, vocal engines, 
addressing machines, methods of preserving fruit, 
cast-iron manufacture, wire-drawing, electric loco- 
motives, moving-picture machines, the making of 
plate glass, compressed-air apparatus, and many other 

To describe these numerous inventions in detail 
would take up too great a part of this book, but a 
brief description of some of them is necessary in order 
to convey to the reader a faint idea of the tremendous 
scope of Edison's researches. He has been by far 
the most prolific inventor and patentee of any time, 
having filed more than twelve hundred applications 
in America alone, for which over eight hundred patents 
have so far been granted. For foreign patents in most 
of the countries of the world his applications number 
more than two thousand. Such a record as this is 
unique, yet because the public has come to regard 
Edison as a kind of favored mortal to whom Nature 
generously whispers her secrets, the inventor scarcely 
receives that amount of credit for the work entailed 
to which he is entitled. 



The commonly accepted idea of him is that by 
brilliant flashes of intellect inventions spring fully 
developed from his brain, or that he has the singular 
good fortune to be the instrument whereby Natur^ 
communicates her discoveries. Neither of these views 
is correct. Edison draws a very broad line between 
"discovery" and "invention." In his parlance a 
discovery is a "scratch" — something that might be 
disclosed to any one, and for which he thinks little or 
no credit is due. Invention, on the other hand, is 
the result of that peculiar faculty which perceives 
the application of some phenomenon or action to a 
new use. As an inventor, therefore, Edison possesses 
two qualifications preeminently. First, the inven- 
tive faculty, or the special intuition by which the 
adaptability of some observed result to a useful end 
is presented; and secondly, the physical energy and 

itience necessary for the investigation by which that 

suit may be ascertained. 

Although capable of flashes of great genius, his 
lind is necessarily analytical, and when a problem 
is presented to his attention it may be safely presumed 
that most of its solutions will be considered by him 
and the most successful selected. Notwithstanding 
this mental equipment, his success has depended very 
largely on his physical make-up, as well as upon a 
certain solidity of his nervous system that takes no 
account of fatigue or ennui. In other words, day 
after day, with only a few hours' sleep, he can devote 
himself enthusiastically to the investigation of a single 
problem the very monotony of which would drive most 
men into nervous prostration. V 

In a recent argument in a ^uit on one of Edison's 
patents opposing counsel sought to show that Edison 
was more an inventor than a discoverer, and the 


remaxk made was entirely complimentary. Said the 
learned gentlen^an: ''If your honor wished him to, 
Mr. Edison could go into a field of grass a mile square 
and select therefrom the most perfect blade I" The 
popular conception of Edison is that of a man who ac- 
complishes stiutling results by instantaneous flashes of 
intellect. The real Edison is a man of indefatigable 
industry, who attains his ends by patient effort intel- 
ligently applied. 

On the subject of "scratches" but very few real dis- 
coveries have been made by him. In one of them 
experiments were being made in the early days with 
automatic telegraphs, where the effect of the current 
was to produce chemical changes in moving paper 
strips with various substances. In making these 
experiments Edison held in his hand a pen, through 
which the current passed, and which pressed upon 
the strip. It was found that, with some chemicals, 
the passage of the current increased the friction be- 
tween the pen and the strip, so as to subject the pen 
to .slight pulls. Later, when experimenting with the 
telephone, these earlier observances occurred to him, 
and as a result the "motograph," or "chalk telephone 
receiver," was invented, wherein the same phenomena 
take place. Although this work Edison regards 
as a "scratch," probably very few men would have 
had the inventive faculty to foresee that the original 
discovery could have been used for making a new 

At the Paris Exposition of 1889 the chief attraction 
was the exhibition of Edison's leading inventions, 
which created an immense sensation. The following 
year they were shown in the United States, and visited 
by hundreds of thousands of individuals interested 
in the progress of invention. Each exhibit was accom- 


panied by a card giving a short description of the 
invention, and there was also published a small descrip- 
tive catalogue or pamphlet, prepared by the late Luther 
Stieringer, friend and co-worker of Edison, and to 
this little work — copies of which are now very diffi- 
cult to obtain — I am indebted for the succinct de- 
scriptions of some of these lesser-known inventions. 

Stieringer was with Edison in the early Menlo Park 
days, and worked almost as untiringly and energeti- 
cally as the inventor himself. He ultimately became 
famous in the electrical world through his develop- 
ment of the wiring system, and the illuminating effects 
which he obtained when the electric light was yet in 
its infancy will always be remembered in the history 
of the incandescent lamp. The lighting of the Omaha 
Exposition was carried out by Stieringer with such 
consummate skill, and the electrical effects were so 
striking, that a special medal was designed in his 
honor and presented to him as a small recognition of 
the success of his work. The illuminations of the 
Grand Court at the World's Fair, Chicago, were also 
placed in his hands, and again he proved in a remark- 
able way the possibilities of electric lighting. Stieringer 
owned the first electrolier ever made, and this was 
shown, among other interesting Edison exhibits, at 
the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. 

Stieringer was one of Edison's stanchest admirers, 
and the inventor's capacity for work was a source 
of constant wonderment to him. He it was who on 
one occasion declared his belief that if Edison could 
have chosen his birthplace he would have located it 
in the planet Mars, so as to have secured the advan- 
tages of a day forty minutes longer than ours. It 
was with Edison's sanction that Stieringer prepared 
the pamphlet, ahready referred to, descriptive of those 


inventions which he knew so well, and the majority 
of which he had seen grow from crude beginnings to 
perfected entities. Stieringer was generally credited 
with having a '^ roving commission" from Edison, 
empowering him to investigate anything and every- 
thing which he considered might prove of use or in- 
terest to the inventor. Any scientific door which was 
double-locked or which bore the legend "No Admit- 
tance" immediately attracted Stieringer's attention, and 
he never rested night or day xmtil he had opened it. Of 
the many men who gathered around Edison in the days 
when the brilliancy of his inventive genius began to 
be recognized Stieringer takes a high place, and his 
death was a very real loss to the scientific and elec- 
trical world. 

Mention has already been made of the fact that 
the motograph was invented at a time when Edison 
was experimenting with automatic telegraphs. An- 
other invention which came to him about the same 
period was the electric pen. This was one of his most 
useful clerical devices, and its great success was soon 
proved by the nimiber of imitations which immediately 
afterwards began to flood the market. The instru- 
ment, as originally conceived, was very simple in con- 
struction, consisting, as it did, of a hollow wooden tube, 
the size and shape of an ordinary penholder, fitted 
with a steel shaft. Attached to the head of the pen 
was a tiny motor communicating with the shaft, while 
a needle projected from the writing end of the instru- 
ment and performed the duties of a pen-point. To work 
the pen the miniatm-e motor was attached to a battery 
by flexible wires, and when in operation the steel shaft 
vibrated at so great a speed that the needle, on being 
guided over the surface of a sheet of paper, perforated 
it. By means of this electric pen the stencil of a plan 


or letter was made, and then, with the help of a dupli- 
cating press and an inked roller, as many copies could 
be nm oflF as were required. 

Soon after this novel pen made its appearance 
many so-called inventors attempted to better and 
cheapen it. Among these was a New Orleans man, 
who got up a pneumatic pen on the same principle, 
except that it was worked by air. Instead of the steel 
shaft a small tube was employed. The air set a little 
drumhead quivering in the top of the pen, and that 
moved the needle. The motor was in the form of 
a tiny bellows operated by clockwork. "It was all 
beautifully simple," said the luckless inventor some 
years later, "and I figured out that it could be sold 
for half the price of the electric machine. I believed 
I was on the eve of reaping a big harvest when Edison 
thought again, and calmly knocked me out by merely 
fastening a diminutive toothed wheel to the point of 
a pencil. When the pencil was moved over the paper 
the wheel naturally revolved, and the teeth cut the 
stencil. It cost about a dollar to make, and shelved 
both the electric and pneumatic pens in just one fell 
swoop. When I heard of Edison's improvement I 
couldn't imderstand why I hadn't thought of it myself, 
but inventions are mighty queer things, anyway." 

The mimeograph, with which every city clerk is 
familiar, followed close on the heels of the electric 
pen. It was more economical, did not need any elec- 
tric power, and yet was equally useful for manifolding 
manuscript. The apparatus consisted of a steel plate, 
a sheet of sensitive paper, and a stylus. The paper 
was laid on the smooth plate, over which the stylus 
glided with the greatest ease, perforating the sensitive 
sheet. In this way a stencil was made from which 
any nimiber of copies could be rolled off. By placing 


the stencil paper, backed with a piece of silk, in the 
typewriter, and removing the ribbon, the same result 
may be obtained for manifolding typewritten matter. 
The mimeograph was immediately recognized as an 
indispensable piece of office furniture, and to-day it 
is to be found in thousands of business houses. 

As far back as 1885 Edison applied for a patent 
covering wireless telegraphy, and was allowed one in 
1891, but he did not pursue his investigations in this 
direction with his customary zeal. He was content 
to give way to Marconi, for whom he has a very sin- 
cere admiration. Edison's "grasshopper telegraph" 
was an invention whereby communication could be made 
between telegraphic stations and moving trains. The 
feature of this system was the absence of any special 
wire. between or along the tracks. Electrical induc- 
tion served to transfer the currents from the apparatus 
in the train to the ordinary Morse wires alongside 
the track, no other medium than the air being required 
to facilitate the transfer. The currents which were 
thus induced in the wires did not in any way interfere 
with the ordinary business which was being carried 
on over them. The apparatus on the train and at 
the stations along the line consisted of an ordinary 
battery, an induction coil with vibrator, a Morse key, 
and a pair of telephone receivers. By means of the 
induction coil the current from the battery was trans- 
formed into a rapidly alternating, highly penetrative 
current, capable of producing a similar current in 
neighboring wires or apparatus. The eflfect was a 
continuous humming sound heard in the phonetic 
receivers, this being broken into the dots and dashes 
of the Morse system by means of the key. The roofs 
of the cars were all connected together and to the 
instruments, and these were connected to the earth 


through the car-wheels and track. By means of this 
simple and inexpensive system messages have been 
transmitted across an air space of 560 feet intervening 
between the wires and the cars. The "grasshopper 
telegraph" was, at one time, used on many of the 
long-distance trains of America, but it never became 
a very great commercial success, probably for the 
reason that few people find it necessary to send mes- 
sages while travelling by rail — even in the United States. 
In the perfecting of this invention Edison worked 
in cooperation with W. Wiley Smith, who therefore 
shares with the inventor the distinction of originating 
this unique form of telegraphy. 

While engaged in his acoustic researches, carried 
on in connection with the telephone, the idea occurred 
to Edison that it would not be difficult to construct 
an instrument whereby two persons at considerable 
distance from each other might carry on a conversa- 
tion without unduly straining their lungs. So he set 
to work and evolved the megaphone. To-day that 
instrument is still largely employed as a means of 
conveying sound to distant points, though its con- 
struction is sdmewhat different to what it was at the 
time of its invention. In those days "twin" funnels 
were employed, made either of metal or wood, each 
funnel being from 6 to 8 feet in length, with a width 
from 30 to 36 inches at the mouths. These huge 
fimnels ended in tiny apertures, which were provided 
with tubes, and which the operator placed in his ears. 
Between the fimnels was a large speaking trumpet, 
and the whole apparatus was mounted on a substan- 
tial steel tripod. Remarkable results were obtained 
by using these megaphones, and two people provided 
with instruments were able to keep up 'a conversation 
at a distance of two miles without in any way raising 


their voices above the normal. The telephone has 
rendered the megaphone less useful than it might 
otherwise have proved, but it remains, nevertheless, 
one of Edison's most valuable inventions connected 
with acoustics. 

Anothfer invention — more interesting, perhaps, than 
useful — also owes its being to experimental work 
connected with the telephone. This Edison called 
the "phonomotor,** or "vocal engine." It consists of 
a mouthpiece and a diaphragm, to the centre of which is 
attached a brass rod carrying a steel pawl; the pawl 
acts on a ratchet wheel with very fine teeth, mounted 
on a shaft carrying a fljrwheel, and driving a colored 
disk by means of a belt or cord. The vibrations of the 
voice — which he had discovered were capable of 
developing considerable energy — in speaking or sing- 
ing into the instrument, caused the pawl to impinge 
upon the teeth of the ratchet-wheel, producing a rapid 
rotation of the fl3rwheel and colored plate ; a continuous 
sound gives the flywheel such momentum that con- 
siderable force is needed to stop it. By means of this 
queer toy it is quite possible to bore a hole through a 
board or even saw wood. 

Two startling inventions in connection with astron- 
omy and hydrography are the work of Edison. These 
are, respectively, the tasimeter and the odoroscope. 
The former is an ingenious instrument in which the 
electrical resistance of carbon has been taken ad- 
vantage of, as in many other of Ekiison's inventions. 
The name "tasimeter" is derived from the words 
meaning "extension" and "measure," because the 
effect is primarily to measure extension of any kind. 
The apparatus consists of a strip of hard rubber with 
pointed ends resting perpendicularly on a platinum 
plate beneath which is a carbon button, and below this 








another plat!aum plate. The two plates and the 
carbon button form part of an electric circuit 
containing a battery and a galvanometer. The hard 
rubber is exceedingly sensitive to heat; the slightest 
degree of warmth imparted to it causes it to expand, 
thus increasing the pressure on the carbon button and 
producing a variation in the resistance of the circuit, 
which is, of coxirse, immediately registered by the gal- 
vanometer. The instrument is so sensitive that with 
a delicate galvanometer the warmth of a person's hand 
at a distance of thirty feet affects it very considerably. 
In astronomical observations it has been used most 
successfully. On one occasion the heat of the rays 
of light from the star Arcturus was measured in a very 
satisfactory manner. 

The principle of the odoroscope is similar to that of 
the tasimeter, but a strip of gelatine takes the place 
of the hard rubber. Besides being affected by heat, 
it is exceedingly sensitive to moisture, a few drops of 
water thrown on the floor of the room being suflScient 
to give a very decided indication on the galvanometer 
in circuit with the instrument. Barometers, hygrom- 
eters, and similar instruments of great delicacy can 
be constructed on the principle of the odoroscope, and 
it may be employed in determining the character or 
pressure of gases and vapor in which it is placed. 

Other inventions of Edison's — too technical for 
description in a work such as this — are the carbon 
rheostat, an instrument for altering the resistance of 
an electrical circuit; the pressure or carbon relay, for 
the translation of signals of variable strengths from 
one circuit to another; acoustic telegraph system, 
chemical telegraph, private line printers, printing tele- 
graphs, electro-magnets, rheotomes or circuit directors, 
telegraph calls and signalling apparatus. 


Edison was the first to see how important it was that 
dynamos should be made with massive field-magnets. 
His first large steam dynamo w^ built at Menlo Park, 
and was used to supply the current for 700 lamps. 
In 1881 he built a dynamo of a size which staggered the 
electrical world. It weighed twenty-seven tons, the 
armature being built of bars of copper instead of wire, 
which alone weighed six tons. It was exhibited at 
Paris, London, Milan, and New York, and created the 
greatest sensation. 

The pyro-magnetic motor, the pyro-magnetic genera- 
tor, the microphone (called after him), the magnetic 
bridge (for testing the magnetic properties of iron), 
the electro-motograph, the motograph receiver, the 
etheroscope, the chalk battery, methods for preserving 
fruit in vacuo without cooking, vacuum pumps, the 
telephonograph, and the "dead beat" galvanometer 
(peculiar from the fact that it has no coils or magnetic 
needle) are a few more inventions for which Edison has 
been granted patents. It might here be mentioned that 
a single invention often carries with it scores of patents, 
and this is the case with several of Edison's conceptions. 
In the line of phonographs, for instance, he has secured 
a hundred and one patents, on storage batteries twenty 
patents, on electric meters twenty patents, on tele- 
graphs a hundred and forty-seven patents, on tele- 
phones thirty-two patents, on electric lights a hundred 
and sixty-nine patents, and on ore-milling machinery 
fifty-three patents. When it is remembered that an 
incandescent lamp consists simply of a carbon filament 
in an exhausted glass globe, the ingenuity in devising 
one himdred and sixty-nine different patentable modifi- 
cations and improvements on such device appears really 

Queer inventions have been ascribed to Edison 


from time to time, and the great electrician is of im- 
mense service to the imaginative American reporter 
who finds himself hard up for a "good story." The 
conscienceless newspaper man will get hold of what he 
believes is a brilliant, if impracticable, idea, and which 
he knows would look well (with a few nightmare illustra- 
tions) in a Simday newspaper, so he sets to work and 
proceeds to turn out something really startling. It is 
necessary, however, to father the "story" on some 
scientist, and who better known than Edison? So the 
unblushing space-writer couples with his imaginings 
the name of the great inventor, feeling pretty safe in 
the thought that his victim, like royalty, is far too busy 
to contradict all the wonderful statements which are 
published about hinL 

Some time ago, for example, an American paper 
came out with a startling story of how Edison had con- 
ceived a plan whereby torpedo-boats would henceforth 
be rendered useless in times of war, "The apparatus," 
said this sensation-loviDg journal, "is in the form of 
canisters of calcium carbide with a small quantity of 
calcium phosphide mixed in, to be placed in the scouting 
boats or fired into the water at a distance from a mortar. 
These canisters, being provided with buoyant chambers 
and water vents, would give off acetylene gas, and also 
spontaneously inflammable phosphoretted hydrogen, 
which would serve to ignite continuously the acetylene 
gas. The result would be powerful lights, very cheaply 
produced, in great numbers over an area of several 
square miles. Any torpedo-boat coming nearer than 
one mile of those lights would be thrown into silhouette, 
which, to the eye, would be at least fifty times more 
powerful than the small reflection from the light- 
absorbing surface of a torpedo-boat illuminated by the 
most powerful electric light. This is Edison's plan. 


It simply cuts the torpedo-boat out of naval warfare as 
an important factor." 

Many other queer inventions have been ascribed 
to Edison. At one time an enterprising newspaper, 
whose policy might be described as saffron-hued, for 
several months published an "interview" with the 
inventor weekly, ascribing to him such weird and won- 
derful things that he at last became really alarmed lest 
a lunacy commission should be appointed to inquire 
into his sanity. Something had to be done, and the 
editor of the paper in question received an intimation 
that unless the series of "stories" came to an end legal 
proceedings would be taken. Being a wise man, the 
editor reflected that it was scarcely dignified to go to 
law over the matter, and the series of "interviews" 
came to an abrupt conclusion. Among other strange 
inventions which this newspaper ascribed to Edison 
was one to be used for melting snow as rapidly as it 
fell. The work was to be accomplished by the use of 
electric and sunlight reflectors. "This," said the news- 
paper in question, " will make many a city boy, who has 
to shovel snow from the sidewalk, very happy, but it 
will at the same time rob many a poor man of a meal 
that he would otherwise get for doing that work. 
The invention will have its greatest utility in clearing 
transcontinental railway tracks." 

These "interviews" called forth an angry letter 
from the inventor in 1898, addressed to a leading New 
York daily, of which the following is a copy : 

"Snt, — I wish to protest through the Sun against 
the many articles appearing in the sensational papers 
of New York from time to time purporting to be inter- 
views with me about wonderfid inventions and dis- 
coveries made or to be made by myself. Scarcely a 


single one is authentic, and the statements purporting 
to be made by me are the inventions of the reporter. 
The public are led from these articles to draw con- 
clusions just the opposite of the facts. I have never 
made it a practice to work on any line not purely 
practical and useful, and I especially desire it to be 
known, if you will permit me, that I have nothing to 
do with an article advertised to appear in one of the 
papers about Mars. 

"T. A. Edison." 

But the story which, perhaps, caused Edison the 
greatest amount of annoyance was one published half 
a dozen years ago. "I laugh at it now," said the 
inventor, "but at the time I did not think it quite so 
amusing. One of the 'boys' (newspaper men) came 
down here one day, and not being able to see me or 
get any startling information from any of my asso- 
ciates, he went home, probably feeling somewhat 
aggrieved, and wrote up a story of his own invention. 
He declared, in a very lucid and descriptive way, 
that I was shortly bringing out a new and very in- 
genious shirt which would last the ordinary man 
twelve months or longer if he were economical. The 
front of the shirt, he declared, was made up of 365 
very thin layers of a certain fibrous material — the 
composition of which was known only to the inventor 
— and each morning that the wearer put the garment 
on, all he had to do to restore the front to its usual 
pristine spotlessness, was to tear off one of the layers,' 
when he would have practically a new shirt. The 
writer declared that I m)^elf wore these shirts, and 
that I considered the invention the biggest tlung I 
had yet accomplished. Well, the story was pub- 
lished in about five hundred papers in the States, and 


the queer part was that so many of the readers be- 
lieved the statements to be true. Every one seemed 
to hanker after possessing one of these shirts, and I 
soon began to receive requests for supplies varying 
from one to a hundred dozens from all parts of the 
country. At first I gave orders that a letter should 
be sent to these would-be buyers of the' 'Edison shirt' 
informing them that the story was untrue and that I 
hadn't tried my hand at patent clothing yet, but the 
letters continued to come in in such numbers that this 
soon became impossible. Many of the writers enclosed 
drafts and checks, and these, of course, had to be re- 
turned. Then the story got into the papers of other 
coimtries, and every race of people from Chinamen tp 
South Africans, all seemed desirous of getting some of 
these shirts. Many writers begged that if I didn't seU 
the shirts m)rself would I inform them where they could 
be obtained. The idea, they were pleased to add, was 
a grand one, and they'd be happy if they could only get 
hold of a few. Did I want any agents to push the 
goods? For more than a year orders for the 'Edison 
Patent Shirts ' poured in, until at last the public began to 
realize that it had been hoaxed and turned its atten- 
tion to something else. But it was a foolish story, 
and if I could have got hold of the young man who 
wrote it up, I guess he wouldn't have wanted a shirt 
or anything else on his back for a few weeks." 

Edison was once asked if he could not invent some- 
thing to prevent people growing old. He laughed at 
the question, and declared that though he didn't think 
he could some one else might in the dim futiure. He 
referred to the sacrifice of animal life and the injection 
of serums to replace worn tissues. The interviewer 
published his remarks at length, with some additions, 
and even stated that it was the belief of Edison and 


others that old age was simply due to molecular physio- 
logical changes made in a certain direction. In other 
words, when we are enabled to. reverse the motion of 
these molecules we can make each birthday reduce our 
age one year, or go backward or forward alternately as 
we wish. This novel idea, which in all probability 
had its origin more or less in the brain of the inter- 
viewer, called forth a good deal of interesting and 
amusing correspondence, and many poets waxed elo- 
quent on the possibilities of "reversing molecules." 

It is said that the medical pharmacopoeia owes to 
Edison the discovery of one of the drugs now used in 
the treatment of gout, viz., hydrate of tetra-ethyl am- 
monium. The story of its discovery is thus related: 

"Edison met a friend one day, and on hearing that 
he was a great sufferer, and noting the swellings of his 
finger- joints, asked, with his usual curiosity: 

"'What is the matter?' 

"'Gout,' replied the sufferer. 

"'Well, but what is gout?' persisted Edison. 

"'Deposits of uric acid in the joints,' came the reply. 

"'Why don't the doctors cure you?' asked Edison. 

"'Because uric acid is insoluble,' he was told. 

"'I don't believe it,' said Edison, and he straight- 
way journeyed to his laboratory, put forth innumer- 
able glass tumblers, and into them emptied some of 
every chemical which he possessed.' Into each he let 
fall a few drops of uric acid and then awaited results. 
Investigation forty-eight hom^ later disclosed that the 
uric acid had dissolved in two of the chemicals. One 
of these is used to-day in the treatment of gout dis- 



Ten or twelve years ago, when the Venezuelan 
matters came to a crisis, a discussion arose in America 
as to the capabilities of the coimtry to defend herself 
in case of war. The press was full of suggestions for 
self-defence from all kinds of people — from men expert 
in warfare and from others who, apparently, had never 
seen a g\m. Many scientists and electricians whose 
opinions were considered valuable were consulted, and 
among these was Edison. An interviewer called at the 
Orange laboratory one morning and plied the inventor 
with so many questions that Edison proceeded to fill 
him up with an astoimding number of electrical de- 
vices whereby America might protect herself from the 
invader. He had hundreds of original and startling 
ideas, and he handed them out as freely as a home 
missionary distributes tracts. 

Edison had some years before invented, in con- 
junction with W. Scot Sims, a submarine torpedo-boat 
to be operated by electricity, and he first of all suggested 
that this deadly instrument of war would prove a ma- 
chine of excellent use in case of trouble. In this invention 
— Edison's solitary contribution to those devices whose 
primary object is the destruction of life — the torpedo 
proper is suspended from a long float so as to be sub- 
merged a few feet under water, and contains the electric 
motor for propulsion and steering, and the explosive 



charge. The torpedo is controlled from the shore or 
ship through an electric cable, which it pays out as it 
goes along, and all operations of varying the speed, 
reversing and steering, are effected by means of cur- 
rents sent through the cable. Edison pointed out that 
this torpedo-boat could be sent a couple of miles ahead 
of a man-of-war, and could be kept at that distance 
under absolute control ready to blow up anything within 

Having referred to his torpedo-boat, Edison next 
proceeded to discuss other ideas for the defence of the 
country which were then simmering through his brain. 
He declared that electricity would play a leading part 
in any war between America and another country, and 
it would be possible to keep an enemy very much at bay 
by merely using streams of water charged with elec- 
tricity. From small forts occupied by a dozen men or 
less it would be easy to control the advance of the enemy, 
no matter in what numbers they might come. Each 
fort would be furnished with an alternating machine 
of 20,000 volts capacity, and it would require but one 
man to operate a stream of water connected with the 
deadly current and play on the enemy. Just as soon as 
the water struck an invader, or a group of invaders, the 
circuit would be complete, and the men would go down 
so quickly that they'd never know what had hit them. 

When once started on a description of this novel 
means of defence Edison himself became deeply inter- 
ested, and, being a humane man, assured his inter- 
viewer, whose eyes were beginnmg to bulge, that the 
wholesale destruction might be modified and the 
current so reduced that those who felt its force would 
merely be stunned. It would all depend on the temper 
of the operator. If he felt in a stunning mood the 
enemy would be shocked only, but, on the other hand. 


if he saw that death was necessary he might turn on 
the full current. Supposing he decided that to stun 
was sufficient, then, after those who had escaped the 
deadly stream had retired, the occupants of the forts 
could go out and pick up the enemy and make them 
prisoners. Should the prisoners become so numerous 
that it was impossible to control them, however, they 
might be treated to another and a stronger dose of 
electrically charged water, and thus be permanently 
put out of the way of doing further damage. This was 
an alternative, however, which Edison, being tender- 
hearted, did not advocate. 

But the inventor had other ideas equally novel and 
effective. He had visions of an aerial torpedo-boat 
which would fly over the ship of an enemy and drop 
a himdred pounds of dynamite down her hold. These 
birds of destruction would be furnished with a self- 
steering gear and a fuse timed to act so many minutes 
or hours after being cut loose from the ship. The 
cost of these aerial torpedo-boats would not be great, 
and those who used them might well afford to send up 
a flight of a hundred or so if the result was the destruc- 
tion of a five-million-dollar war vessel. 

The inventor then discussed other powers of de- 
struction such as dynamite guns, after which the inter- 
viewer went home and wrote an article which not only 
brought great joy to his countrymen, but attracted the 
attention of European powers. England took the 
statements somewhat seriously, and a leading provin- 
cial daily newspaper — it would be unkind to mention 
its name — published the following remarks in a 

"For the moment we are tempted to think that Mr. 
Edison must be mad, if there is any truth in the report 
which has appeared of an interview with that very 





wonderful man, in the course of which he spoke of the 
murderous inventions he has ready for the service of 
his country in the event of war with any other nation. 
We protest against Mr. Edison directing his extraordi- 
nary inventive genius which God has given him into such 
channels. We would even give our hearty adhesion 
to the old sentiment, that all things are fair enough in 
love and war. But to attack an enemy with such 
'resoiu-ces of civilization' as those of which Mr. Edison 
speaks is not war, it is simply wholesale slaughter of a 
kind which would be intolerably wicked and cruel, and 
which no nation with any self-respect would permit to 
be exercised. Let Mr. Edison continue to direct his 
enormous talents into more peaceful channels for the 
benefit of a world which is heavily indebted to him 
already for his marvellous inventions. We do not say 
this because we fear for our soldiers. They have faced 
danger so bravely and in so many ways, and have 
held their lives as nought where the honour of old 
England has been concerned, that we do not doubt 
they would meet Edison's engines of destruction if 
they knew it was their duty. But the sentiment of 
the matter does not excuse the wickedness of the ideas 
attributed — we hope unjustly — to the greatest in- 
ventor of his time." 

Then the London papers took up the matter and 
discussed Edison's propositions in all seriousness. 
Lord Armstrong was appealed to by an excited cor- 
respondent, and received from the British inventor 
the following letter: 

"Cragside, Rothbuky, December 37, 1895. 

"Dear Sir, — If the words attributed to Mr. 
Edison are correctly reported, which I greatly doubt, 
I must say that this great inventor is both hard to un- 


derstand and extravagantly sanguine. Designs which 
exist only in idea are seldom of much account, and Mr. 
Edison would be more than human if his brain were 
capable of evolving matured inventions of astounding 
potency in war requiring no protracted trials to fit them 
for practical application. In such matters models 
and laboratory experiments go for very little on this 
side of the Atlantic. Nothing short of trials on a scale 
of actual practice can be relied upon, and these, if 
made, would, from their nature, be incapable of con- 
cealment, so that the advantage of sole possession wpuld 
speedily vanish. Transcendent inventions, even when 
coming from an Edison, should always be received with 
incredulity in the absence of tangible proof, and Lord 
Salisbury is himself too much of an electrician to be 
moved from his serenity by any threats of wholesale 
electrical destruction which Mr. Edison in the fervour 
of his patriotism may have uttered." 

France also took an interest in Edison's war inven- 
tions, and while England was discussing the proposed 
dynamite gims and aerial torpedoes, a Parisian paper 
niade its appearance with the following skit, which 
imagines Edison in his laboratory hearing the news of 
a declaration of war between Great Britain and the 
United States. A yoimg man, his assistant, rushes in, 
pale and out of breath, and exclaims to the great 
electrician : 

"Oh, master, war is declared 1 It is terrible I" 

"Ahl" says the master. "War declared, eh? 
And where is the British army at this moment?" 

"Embarking, sir." 

" Embarking where ? " 

"At Liverpool." 

"At Liverpool — yes. Now, my friend, would you 


please join the ends of those two wires hanging there 
against the wall ? That is right. Now bring them to 
me. Good. Now be kind enough to press the button." 

The assistant, wondering and half-amused, presses 
the button. 

"Very well," says the inventor. "Now do you 
know what is taking place at Liverpool?" 

"The British army is embarking, sir." 

The inventor pulls out his watch and glances at the 
time. "There is no British army," he says curtly. 

"What?" screams the assistant. 

"When you touched that button you destroyed it." 

"Oh, this is frightful!" 

"It is not frightful at all. It is science. Now, 
every time a British expedition embarks at any port 
please come and tell me at once. Ten seconds after- 
wards it will simply be out of existence. That is all." 

"There does not seem to be any reason why America 
should be afraid of its enemies after this, sir." 

"I am inclined to believe you," says the master, 
smiling slightly. "But in order to avoid further 
trouble, I think it would be best to destroy England 

"To — to destroy England, sir " 

"Kindly touch button No. 4 there." 

The assistant touches it. The inventor coxmts ten. 

"... eight, nine, ten — it is all over. There is no 
more England." 

"Oh I oh !" screams the young man. 

"Now we can go on quietly with our work," says 
the master. "And if we should be at war with any 
other nation you have only to notify me. I have an 
electric button connected with every foreign country 
which will destroy it when pressed* In ten minutes 
I could destroy every coimtry in the world, the United 


States included. Be careful, now, that you don't 
touch any of those buttons accidentally — you might 
do a lot of damage I" 

All these stories and skits were highly diverting to 
Edison, who was vastly astonished that his innocent, 
if imaginative, remarks on what might be accom- 
plished in the way of electrically devised war engines 
should have been taken so seriously and created such a 
sensation. What he did regret, however, was the state- 
ment that he was especially inventing destructive ma- 
chines for use in case of war with England. There 
would never be such a war, he declared, and so the 
suggestion that he was devising engines to assist in the 
annihilation of the old country was absurd. At the time 
of the discussion Edison gave his opinion on England 
and her wars, in the course of which he said that usually 
Great Britain took from two to three years to get down 
to business, during which time most things went wrong. 
But she hung on and finally "got there" when the other 
fellow was tired out. In substance he agreed with the 
man who declared that what had made England was 
not its head but its body. This opinion was ciuiously 
verified some years later when war broke out between 
that coimtry and South Africa. 

But though Edison has not given much attention 
to the creation of war machines he has experimented 
quite a little with explosives, and their peculiarities 
have always had a fascination for him. In his early 
days — when he was a boy selling newspapers — he 
liked experimenting with* things that might possibly 
explode, and while a "cub" operator he compounded 
a kind of gun-cotton sufficiently strong to blow the 
front of the stove out. Edison does not consider 
dynamite, even when roughly handled, in any way 

WAR MACfflNES 199 

dangerous, but regards it as the safest explosive we 
possess. In the magnetic separation of ores Edison 
used a great deal of dynamite, and as an object-lesson 
to the men he on several occasions took them into the 
woods surrounding the mines to prove to them how 
safe an explosive dynamite really was. He would bum 
it before them, throw rocks at it, and all together treat 
it with considerable contempt. He did this in order 
to prove to them that with ordinary care dynamite 
might be relied upon to behave itself. The men 
learned their lesson well, for ever since then, though 
they have handled tons of the explosive, not a single ac- 
cident has occiured. 

Nitro-glycerine, on the other hand, is dangerous 
at all times. Put a drop of it on a table and touch it 
with a hammer and you and the table and the hammer 
will in all probability leave the house together. But 
even this explosive is comparatively safe compared with 
iodide of nitrogen, whose explosive power is equal to 
4000 feet a second, which is nearly four times the veloc- 
ity of sound. In his experiments with explosives Edi- 
son has made some so sensitive that they would ''go off" 
if shouted at. A drop placed on the table and yelled 
at would explode, "You see," he said in explaining 
this curious phenomenon, "the thing is in a state of 
very delicate equilibrium. It is a question depending 
on surroxmding conditions as to which it will do — re- 
main a liquid or turn into gas. When this balance is 
about equal it takes very little to incline it toward a 
gaseous form, so that even the sound of the voice will 
cause a change. A violent fit of coughing will produce 
the effect, and so would a heavy weight dropped on the 

Edison regards these highly sensitive explosives with 
a good deal of affection, for by means of one he was. 


years ago, enabled to find a way out of what appeared 
at the time to be something of a difficulty. While 
conducting his experiments in explosives he was one 
morning visited by some ministers who insisted on boring 
him very considerably in his laboratory. The inventor 
treated them, as he treats every one, courteously and 
kindly, but as the day wore on and there was no sign 
of their retiring, he began to think that it would be 
necessary to hint to them that they were monopolizing 
rather more of his time than he could very well afiFord 
to spare. So he casually informed them that he was 
experimenting with very delicate explosives and he 
would be sorry if any of them got hurt. 

But this only had the effect of increasing their inter- 
est, and they got in his way, distracted him by foolish 
questions, and made him generally nervous and — 
almost — irritable. The inventor heaved a scarcely 
concealed sigh and set himself the task of evolving a 
plan whereby he could get rid of them without appearing 
to be rude. After a few minutes an excellent idea sug- 
gested itself, and taking some of the material that he had 
been experimenting with he put a drop or two about the 
room — in places where there was no danger of a min- 
ister being blown through the window. The visitors 
watched him with growing interest, apparently felt 
no xmeasiness at his actions, but rather crowded round 
him the more. Then the inventor took a seat at the 
bench and continued his investigations. Presently he 
jumped up with a dramatic "I have it !" and knocked 
a heavy board oflf the table, which fell with a crash to 
the floor. What followed was rather worse than 
even Edison had intended. No windows were 
broken, but through the deafening explosion which 
occurred, a number of glass botdes were smashed, 
an electrical apparatus put out of business, a table 


overturned, and the ministers frightened almost out 
of their wits. They put their hands to their heads 
in evident fear of something worse, and then asked 
what had happened. Edison took the matter very 
coollyj and explained that such explosions were con- 
stantly happening, though he was glad to say they 
hadn't killed any one since the fall. He hoped there 
would not be another bust-up that day, but you never 
could tell. The ministers declared it was all very 
interesting, but they guessed they'd better be going, 
and grabbing their hats they hastily bade the inventor 
good-by and departed. 

The above story recalls the fact that Edison's faculties 
are frequently put to severe tests in devising methods 
for getting rid of imwelcome visitors. "On one oc- 
casion a reporter called to see the inventor, and as the 
paper he represented was not one which had Edison's 
S)nnpathy — it had several times been guilty of ascrib- 
ing to him various ridiculous statements which had no 
foundation — he was desirous of getting rid of him 
speedily but without offence. So he asked the reporter 
if he objected to his talking while continuing his ex- 
periments in the inner chemical laboratory, and the 
visitor expressed himself as being delighted. It would 
give an added interest to the interview. So they ad- 
journed to Edison's own private room in the labora- 
tory, and the inventor again asked to be excused talking 
tmtil he had his apparatus in order. 

"He got out a machine peculiar for its power of 
charging the surrounding atmosphere with a certain 
form of oxygen highly objectionable to any one but 
the most enthusiastic scientist, and soon had the engine 
going full blast. Of course, Edison didn't mind the 
fumes in the least, and he smilingly turned to his caller 
with his usual cheery 'Well, what can I do for you?' 


But the reporter was speechless, the fumes had got down 
into his throat and into his eyes, and, it appeared to him, 
were making their way through his ears into his brain. 
He attempted to put the questions with which he had 
come fully charged, but it was impossible by reason of 
his choking and coughing. He was obliged himself 
to bring the interview to a sudden close, and begged 
leave to retire, greatly to the well-feigned surprise of 
the inventor, who, by his manner, appeared some- 
what offended at the reporter's hasty retreat. Whether 
the man ever suspected the trick that had been played 
upon him is a question, but there is no doubt about his 
fsdling to return to the laboratory to continue his in- 
terrupted interview with the joke4oving inventor/' 



The question is sometimes raised as to whether 
Eklison invented the machine by which condemned 
criminals in ce];tain states are electrocuted. He did 
not, though when the apparatus was being installed at 
Auburn, he visited the prison and inspected the interest- 
ing instrument whereby murderers who commit their 
crimes in the state of New York are sometimes shocked 
out of existence. Moreover, when experiments were 
being conducted to decide whether or not electrocution 
should be adopted as the capital sentence in lieu of 
hanging, Edison placed his Menlo Park laboratory at 
the disposal of the investigators and allowed some of 
his electricians to assist in the work of investigation. 

When the idea of adopting electrocution as a means 
of pimishing murderers was first suggested it was 
lauded at, and the majority of the newspapers made 
merry over what they regarded as a jest. They de- 
dared that such a form of execution would never be 
adopted in America. But, to the surprise of many, 
the idea found favor with the Governor of New York 
State, and a commission consisting of Dr. Carlos F. 
MacDonald, Medical Superintendent of the Auburn 
Asylum for Insane Criminals; Dr. A. D. Rockwell, 
a celebrated investigator of electrical phenomena; Dr. 
Edward Tatum, Harold P. Brown, an electrical 
engineer, and others, was appointed to inquire into 



the matter, and the members at once set about 
making certain experiments to determine whether 
electrocution was not, after all, a more humane form 
of execution than hanging. 

Edison was appealed to, and though the subject 
was not one with which he had much sympathy — he 
declared that he would be sorry to see electricity put 
to so bad a use — he acceded to the request that certain 
experimental work might be conducted at Menlo Park, 
and cheerfully put at the disposal of the investigators 
a large building at the rear of the laboratory, where 
numerous experiments were conducted. Harold P. 
Brown was appointed by the state to* carry out these 
experiments, the primary object of which was to decide 
the place and method of applying the electrodes in 
order to produce death with the minimum amount of 
pain. It had previously been decided that the only 
ciuxent producing a satisfactory result was that known 
as the "alternating," and in all experiments conducted 
at Menlo Park this current was employed. It may 
be mentioned that this alternating current is one 
which, instead of giving the victim a continuous shock, 
strikes a series of blows at the rate of three or four hun- 
dred a second. In all electrocutions carried out at Sing 
Sing and Auburn prisons the alternating current is 

The experiments to decide the merits of electro- 
cution over hanging took place on March 2, 1889, 
in the large wooden building which Edison had had 
fitted up with every electrical appliance necessary for 
the purpose. The victims chosen were several dogs, 
four calves, and a horse. The dogs claimed the at- 
tention of the experimenters first, and a big black New- 
foundland quietly submitted to being weighed — he 
turned the scale at close on ninety pounds — and then 


with the same docility allowed a small plate of brass, 
covered with felt and soaked in a solution of salt, to 
be tied to his head, while a bandage moistened with 
the same lotion was fixed to his right leg with a piece 
of copper wire. Lest he might show a desire to rmi 
away, the animal was made to stand in a box, but 
flight seemed far from his intention. He seemed as 
interested in the experiments as any one present. 

The dog's "resistance" was next computed by means 
of two fine wires connected with the electrodes, to which 
was attached a registering instrument. A slight shock 
was then sent through the animal — so slight that 
he scarcely winced — but of sufficient strength to 
correctly record his power to withstand the electric 
current. Heavy wires then took the place of the fine 
ones, the current was turned on, and the animal im- 
mediately stiffened. There was a slight tendency to 
leap forward, but it was momentary, and the animal 
remained perfectly still. The current was kept up for 
ten seconds, and when turned off the dog dropped in a 
heap perfectly dead. 

The calves died just as easily. They weighed about 
100 pounds and were given 800 volts each, and the 
current kept up for fifteen seconds. In the case of 
the horse 1000 volts of electricity were used and con- 
tinued for twenty-five seconds. Death in each case 
appeared to be instantaneous. All those who took 
part in the experiment declared that they proved that 
death by electricity was more rapid and less painful 
than any other form of execution. The commission 
recommended that for the greater comfort of human 
victims a well-fitting helmet should take the place of the 
brass plate, while the bandage on the leg might with 
advantage be discarded in favor of a shoe furnished 
with a metallic sole. They added that the prisoner 


should be bound in an arm-chair, and inasmuch as 
human resistance was always greater than animal 
resistance — though it varied in every mdividual — 
2000 volts might be counted upon to satisfactorily per- 
form the happy despatch. It was at that time stated 
on the authority of the commission that a looo-volt 
continuous current might be taken by any person in 
ordinary health without permanent inconvenience. 

During the time that these experiments were in 
progress the state held prisoner a certain murderer 
named Kemmler, on whom they were very anxious to 
try the new form of execution. He was ultimately sen- 
tenced " to suflfer death by electricity at Auburn Prison 
within the week beginning Monday, June 24, 1889." 

But after many experiments had satisfied the com- 
mission that electrocution was the most humane of 
capital punishments, W. Bourke Cockran, an ex- 
Congressman, "in the interests of love of humanity 
and a desire to prevent an inhuman execution*' (to 
quote his own words), took up the case, and for months 
fought the state's agent, Harold P. Brown, in an effort 
to save Kemmler from the chair. The case created the 
greatest sensation, and twice the prisoner was reprieved 
while evidence was collected to prove the unlawfulness 
of the new method of execution. Edison figured 
prominently in this evidence, and Mr. Cockran, know- 
ing his views to be opposed to capital punishment, 
called him early as a witness. But he proved a dis- 
appointment in furthering the cause of the humane 
lawyer, for the question was not one of sentiment 
but whether or not electrocution meant instantaneous 
death. Edison had had the "resistance" of several 
hundred men in his employ taken, and was therefore 
well primed on the subject. The day on which he gave 
his evidence the court room was crowded to the doors 


by people attracted, not so much by the peculiarly mor- 
bid nature of the case as by a burning desire to see 
and hear the great electrician. It was one of the few 
occasions on which the inventor appeared in a court of 
justice, and he proved an excellent witness. Deputy 
Attorney-General Poste conducted the case, and the 
distinguished witness was put through a stiff cross- 
examination. At this late date it is interesting to recall 
Edison's remarks in court on this occasion. He was 
evidently quite at his ease, and answered the questions 

"What is your calling or profession?" Mr. Poste 

"Inventor," briefly replied the witness. 

"Have you devoted a great deal of attention to the 
subject of electricity?" 


"How long have you been engaged in the Work of 
an inventor or electrician?" 

"Twenty-six years." 

In reply to questions he said he was familiar with 
the various dynamos and their construction, and that 
they all generated either a continuous or an alternating 

"A continuous current," Edison said, "is one that 
flows like water through a pipe. An alternating current 
is the same as if a body of water were allowed to flow 
through the pipe in one direction for a given time and 
then its direction reversed for a given time." 

The witness said he had been present when the 
measurements were made in his laboratory to deter- 
mine the resistance of human beings. Two hundred 
and fifty persons were measured, and their average 
resistance was 1000 ohms, the highest being 1800 ohms, 
and the lowest 600. 


"Will you describe the method of the application 
of your tests?" Mr. Poste asked. 

"We took two battery jars about seven inches in 
diameter and ten inches high, and put in each jar a 
plate of copper. In the jar we put water with a lo 
per cent solution of caustic potash. The men we 
measured plunged their hands into the liquid so that 
the ends of their fingers touched the bottom of the jars. 
After waiting thirty seconds the measurement was taken. 

"Where, in your opinion, is the major part of the 
resistance located?" Mr. Poste asked. 

"I should say 15 per cent at the point of contact. 
The balance in the body." 

"What is the law that governs the passage of an 
electric current, when several paths of varying resist- 
ance are ofiFered to it?" 

"It divides in proportion to the resistance encoun- 

"Please explain the burning effects sometimes pro- 
duced in the case of contact with an electric wire." 

"It is due to bad contact, and the difference in re- 
sistance between the wire and the flesh." ^ 

"In yoiu: judgment can an artificial electric current 
be generated and applied in such a manner as to pro- 
duce death in human beings in every case?" 



"Yes." He advised placing the culprit's hands in a 
jar of water diluted with caustic potash and connect- 
ing the electrodes therewith, and, he said, 1000 volts 
of alternating current would surely produce death 
instantaneously. He did not think so small a con- 
tinuous current would, although by mechanically 
intermitting the continuous current it could be made 
very deadly. 


Mr. Cockran, in his cross-examination, laid much 
stress upon Edison's views as to the resistance of human 

"Did you make the experiments on the men which 
you have mentioned with a view to ascertaining just 
how to measure the resistance of Kemmler and find 
out how men may differ in the matter of resistance?" 
asked Mr. Cockran. 

"I did. I made experiments the day before yester- 
day," Edison replied. 

"And you found out there were different degrees 
of resistance in different men?" 

" Yes, but that does not mean that the same current 
would not kill all men." 

"What would be the effect of the current on Kemm- 
ler in case the current was applied for five or six min- 
utes? Would he not be carbonized?" 

"No," replied Edison, with a ghost of a smile. "He 
would be mummified. All the water in his body would 
evaporate in five or six minutes." 

With what he had found to be the average resistance 
of the human body, Edison said that 1000 volts would 
give a man an ampfere of current, which is ten times 
as much as any man needs to kill him. In reply to 
a question, he replied that there was an alternating 
d)mamo in London that generated a io,ooo-volt current, 
and he considered it safe to double up dynamos to 
increase the current for use in executions. 

"That is your belief, not from knowledge?" Mr. 
Cockran asked. 

"From belief. I never killed anybody," the witness 
quietly replied. 

Many other witnesses were called to sp?ak for and 
against electrocution, hundreds of scientists, elec- 
tricians, and doctors were consulted; opinions of 


well-known men and women were cabled over from 
England and the Continent, thousands of editorials 
were written on the subject in the daily press, and 
letters from private individuals addressed to news- 
papers of all countries poiured into their offices in one 
continuous stream. Meanwhile Kemmler remained 
in jail mildly wondering whether it was to be hanging 
or electrocution. Apparently the question was not 
one which greatly disturbed him, for he spent the 
greater part of his time composing doggerel verses 
and singing them at the top of his voice to tunes which 
he had learned when he was free. He had been re- 
prieved twice, but this was principally owing to a desire 
on the part of the authorities to preserve him until the 
question of electrocution had been satisfactorily settled, 
and in no way indicated any sentiment in his favor. 
In July, 1890, it was finally decided that punishment 
by electricity should come into force in the state of 
New York, and Kemmler was the prisoner chosen to 
prove the wisdom or otherwise of the decision. His 
death was fixed for August 6, in Auburn Prison, and 
when informed of this he merely smiled without making 
any remark. In face of the fact that he was going to 
an uncertain and perhaps torturing death his courage 
was remarkable. To witness his death — perhaps the 
most dramatic that has ever taken place in connection 
with American criminal law — the warden of Auburn 
Prison was empowered to send out "twenty-one in- 
vitations." With two exceptions he invited men from 
the ranks of science. Each man accepted and each 
was present at Kemmler's death, with the exception 
of Edison. 
The room in which the dynamo stood was in the 
. northeast wing of the prison, from 800 to 1000 feet 
from the execution room. The dynamo used was 


the ordinary commercial Westinghouse machine capa- 
ble of producing a current of 1500 volts. The cur- 
rent employed on Kemmler varied from 800 to 1300 
volts. The dynamo was run by an engine in the 
basement of the prison. The wires which carried 
the current were run out of a window of the dynamo 
room to the roof of the jail and along the roof to a 
point directly over the room first chosen for the death- 
chamber in the southern wing of the prison. From 
this room two small wires ran to the engine and dy- 
namo room. These wires were the means of commu- 
nication between the room in which the switchboard 
was fastened and the men in charge of both the dynamo 
and engines, and a code, of signals had been arranged 
by them. The wires were attached to electric bells. 
Two rings of the bell was the signal to start the en- 
gine, and a succeeding double ring was a command 
to increase the power. One ring meant to stop the 

The switchboard was 5 feet long by 3J feet broad, 
and upon this were a voltmeter, resistance-box, lamp- 
board, a regulating switch which governed the lamps, 
an ammeter to measiure the quantity of electricity 
in the current, and the switch which when turned 
sent the current through Kemmler's body. The 
wires used were of the largest size electric-light wires. 
One of these ran directly from the chair, while the 
other passed through the ammeter to the switch. The 
voltmeter was governed by a wire leading directly 
to the death-chair, by two branches running from it. 
One branch ran into the resistance-box, and the other 
into the voltmeter. The electrodes in which the wires 
ended were in rubber cups, in each of which was a 
sponge satiurated with a solution of caustic soda. 

Since that first electrocution in Auburn Prison there 


have been close upon a hundred similar executions in 
the state of New York. The methods adopted seven- 
teen years ago are very similar to those in use to-day, 
and death in the chair is a good deal easier than 
hanging, guillotining, or garrotting; but still Edison, 
who unwillingly assisted in electrocution becoming 
law, continues to aflirm he deeply regrets that elec- 
tricity ever came to be put to so bad a use. But apart 
from that, he is averse to capital punishment, and one 
of his wise sayings which will be remembered is the 
following: "There are wonderful possibilities in each 
human soul, and I cannot endorse a method of punish- 
ment which destroys the last chance of usefulness." 



Edison has secured twenty patents on his storage 
battery, and in working out the details of what may 
be regarded as one of his favorite inventions he has 
spent many years of unceasing labor. Literally thou- 
sands of experiments have been made,* but the final 
results have been so satisfactory that the battery has 
at last passed but of his hands and is now in diarge 
of the manufacturers. During 1906 he devoted almost 
his entire time to the perfecting of his storage battery, 
for though he had brought it to such a state of perfec- 
tion that out of five thousand less than 4 per cent were 
imperfect, this did not satisfy him. Throughout his 
life Edison has always adhered to one inflexible rule — 
a rule which he made in the early days when he first 
began to be known as an inventor — never to send 
anything out of bis laboratory that was not absolutely 
perfect. He has therefore refrained from placing his 
storage battery on the market, in spite of the tempta- 
tion to thereby refute the many statements that have 
appeared in the press declaring that his experiments 
in this direction have ended in failiure. Now the huge 
factories which are going up in Orange for the sole 
purpose of making the Edison storage battery bear 
silent witness to the final success of this important 

Said one of his men who has worked with him on 



the storage battery for many years: "Ninety-nine 
out of every hundred — perhaps nine hundred and 
ninety-nine out of every thousand — inventors would 
have been satisfied with the improvements made four 
or five years ago, and put the battery on the market 
and reaped a rich reward, but Edison is made differ- 
ently. He aims at perfection, and as a rule hits the 
mark. He doesn't 'blow' about a thing until it is 
completed, and when it is he lets the thing blow for 
itself. These batteries, which the public will soon be 
able to sample for themselves, have been subjected to 
tests which can only be described as 'heroic' A year 
or so ago we had half a dozen machines, all of differ- 
ent designs and weights, fitted with Edison storage bat- 
teries, and then sent, in charge of skilful mechanics, 
over the roughest roads in New Jersey. The trips 
were scheduled by Mr. Edison himself, who was deter- 
mined to subject the batteries to tests which would 
reduce the machines themselves to scrap-iron. Daily 
each machine had to accomplish a hundred miles imtil 
five thousand miles had been covered. The worst 
possible roads were chosen, and when a machine 
struck a track which was particularly heavy and bad, 
that track was covered several times during the day 
until the hundred miles had been accomplished. For 
sixty days these trials continued, and at the end of that 
time the machines were little less than wrecks. Many 
sets of tires were worn out, axles split, and screws 
wrenched out in the terrible jolts, but when we came 
to examine the batteries we found that in no single 
instance had the slightest injury been received. The 
automobiles were fit only for the scrap-heap, but the 
batteries were in perfect condition for another five* 
thousand-mile trip. 
"Besides these tests which the batteries imderwent 


« o 






! . . \ . . . •* 1 


in covering the rough New Jersey roads, they were 
subjected to another trial of their strength in the labo- 
ratory — a final test which, one might think, would 
have smashed them to' bits. This test was carried 
out as follows : A cell was fastened to the loose end of 
a four-foot board, to which a small electric motor 
was geared. Every five minutes or so the motor would 
raise that end of the board to which the cell was at- 
tached three feet in tlie air, and let it drop with a 
crash which would have 'busted' any ordinary piece 
of machinery. But the cell evidently felt little of the 
jar, for after every hour or so when damage was looked 
for the battery appeared as strong and healthy as 

In his storage battery Edison made the interesting 
discovery that cobalt was the material best suited to 
the making of the condenser. He had a long search 
for this remarkable metal, which is generally found 
in small quantities only, and he was lucky enough to 
strike a rich vein running from a point just east of 
Nashville, Tenn., across the line into North Carolina. 
This discovery of a bed of cobalt was to Edison a 
find as rich as a gpld mine would be to the ordinary 
mortal, in spite of the fact that up to that time it was 
not regarded in any way as a precious metal or even 
a useful one. Indeed, its uselessness is signified by its 
name, which is derived from the German "Kobold," 
meaning "evfl-minded spirit." 

It will be readily understood that in the manufac- 
ture of a perfect storage battery one of the hardest 
nuts to crack was the invention of an ideal accumu- 
lator or condenser — that portion of the battery capa- 
ble of containing large quantities of electricity. Early 
in his experiments Mr. Edison discarded lead as being 
heavy and cumbersome, and with his usual remark- 


able powers of deduction concluded that the metal he 
was looking for was cobalt. But he was confronted 
by an almost insuperable difficulty. Cobalt had 
never been found save in small quantities, and it was 
necessary to discover a mine of it if the metal was to 
be of any real use. He set experts to work himting 
for cobalt, and they carried on the search with the 
same persistency which had characterized those men 
in bygone days who had set out to find a bamboo suit- 
able for an incandescent filament. And the result, 
as before stated, was the discovery of cobalt in Ten- 
nessee, and in quantities which even satisfied the 
inventor himself. Cobalt, as readers are probably 
well aware, is invariably associated with nickel com- 
pounds or united with arsenic and sulphur, never 
being found native save in some meteorites. It is 
a reddish white metal, lustrous, tenacious, difiScult 
of fusing, may be magnetized, and will retain its mag- 
netism even when raised to a red heat. Cobalt was 
the material, therefore, for an ideal accumulator, and 
went far towards assisting in the perfecting of the 
Edison storage battery. 

Two years ago Edison made the following state- 
ment in the press: "I believe that the problem of ve- 
hicular traffic in cities has at last been solved. The 
new electric storage cell weighs 40 poimds per horse- 
power hour. The present lead battery of the same 
efficiency weighs from 85 to 100 pounds. I believe that 
the solution of vehicular traffic in cities is to be found 
in the electric wagon. Leaving oflF the horse reduces 
the length of the vehicle one-half. Electric power 
will double the speed. With the new electric wagon, 
the vehicular traffic of cities can be increased four 
times without producing any more congestion than 
at present. That will be a great gain in every way. 


The new storage cell will last from six to eight years. 
That is proved by actual experiments. I have one 
cell which has been in constant use for more than 
five years. The new cell will not cost more than the 
painting and the tires of the wagon. I do not think 
the cost of operation will be quite as great as the cost 
of horses. There again we shall have an advantage." 
The Edison storage battery may be run fifty, seventy- 
five, and a hundred miles without recharging, and the 
construction is simplicity itself. It contains no acid 
and no organic matter in any form, so that corroding 
is impossible. The only attention it needs is to be 
kept full of water in order that ''a liquid pathway 
may be provided along which oxygen may travel be- 
tween the nickel and the iron." The weight of the 
cell is 40 pounds per horse-power hour, and it is as good 
at the end of a year as at the beginning. The weight 
of a storage battery, as every one who has run an 
automobile knows, is a serious consideration, for the 
greater the weight in the carriage the more speedily 
will the tires wear out. It therefore stands to reason 
that with a battery less than one-half the weight of that 
now in use the life of a tire will be doubled and perhaps 
trebled. And so the cost of automobiling will again 
be reduced. An Edison cell has been charged and 
discharged four hundred times without showing de- 
fects. In size it is iij x 5 x 2 inches, very compact 
and easy of handling. It contains a solution of potash 
in whidi are immersed steel plates containing oxide 
of iron and oxide of nickel. As soon as the battery is 
charged the oxide of iron is reduced to metallic iron, 
the oxide of nickel absorbs the freed oxygen and is 
thus raised to a higher oxide. When the battery is 
discharge, the oxygen absorbed by the nickel goes 
through the liquid over to the metallic iron and so 


oxidizes the iron back to the original state. That is to 
say, the oxygen bums the iron ; but instead of getting 
heat we get electricity as a substitute. It is a species 
of internal combustion in which the oxygen is stored 
up in the nickel to bum the iron. There is no other 
reaction. The simple metallic elements are iron, 
nickel, and steel. 

To recount all the details of the development of 
this perfected Edison storage battery would require 
an entire book — a book of much human nature, of 
intense interest, of hopes and fears, of many disap- 
pointments, and of f[nal successful realization. In 
the first place, the defects of the old forms of storage 
batteries had to be analyzed, from which it was found 
that the objections were inseparable from these types. 
Consequently a definite ideal was fixed — a battery 
that should be cheap, light, compact, mechanically 
strong, absolutely permanent, and generally "fool" 
proof — and for the accomplishment of this ideal the 
energies of Edison and his assistants were directed. 

It was immediately perceived that the use of an 
acid solution was out of the question, since that meant 
the employment of Tead — the objections to which 
were fully appreciated. At the outset, therefore, it 
was determined to use an alkaline electrolyte, and 
the question then presented was as to the character 
of active materials to be used. In this search for suit- 
able active materials practically the gamut of chemical 
elements was run; nothing was left untried, and in 
this investigation many remarkable and heretofore 
unknown discoveries were made. 

After months of patient experimenting it was finally 
decided that the metals which possessed all the desira- 
ble properties theoretically were iron and nickel. When 
this was settled, the real inventive work began. That 


work involved the solution of the question how to 
obtain iron and nickel so as to get those elements in 
the proper condition of activity for practical use in 
a storage battery. Literally thousands of experiments 
were made in this particular direction, and processes 
were gradually developed by which the materials 
were finally secured in the desirable condition. The 
development of the two metals was carried on simul- 
taneously, the effort, of coiurse, being to obtain prac- 
tically the energy which the metals should give theo- 
retically. In this work the development of the iron 
would sometimes be far ahead that of the nickel, and 
then some new discovery would be made or some new 
process suggested by which the nickel would exceed 
the iron. Finally, the work had so far developed 
that practically the entu-e theoretical efficiency was 
secured for both materials. 

At this point the mechanical make-up of the bat- 
tery required consideration in order that a cell might 
be obtained capable of cheap manufacture, mechani- 
cally strong, durable, and compact. Unforeseen diffi- 
culties were met with in these investigations, as, for 
example, it was found that, in charging or discharging, 
one or other of the active masses in absorbmg oxygen 
tended to swell; no solder was known that would 
resist the effects of electrolysis in a caustic solution; 
and it was also found that during charging the gen- 
erated gases tended to carry off a fine spray of the 
alkali, so as thereby to deplete the electrolyte. All 
these difficulties and many others had to be overcome. 

Even when the battery had been experimentally 
developed both mechanically and chemically, machines 
and processes had to be designed and invented by 
which the active materials could be made, the mechani- 
cal parts produced, and the battery assembled pn a 


commercial scale. In all this work Edison was in 
the forefront, directing the experiments, suggesting 
mo^afications, preparing new processes, and designing 
new mechanical appliances, until to-day the Edison 
storage battery is a perfected entity, realizing all the 
ideal conditions that were laid down at the start, and 
crowning with success many years of the most patient, 
persistent, and indefatigable investigations that can 
be imagined. 



The Edison laboratory at Orange consists of a 
group of buildings of impressive proportions, erected 
in the midst of green meadows and shady trees, and 
is probably more pictiuresquely situated than any other 
place of the kind in the world. The town of Orange 
is but forty minutes by rail from the metropolis, and 
is noted for its imrivalled scenery of hill and dale. 
Within a stone's throw of the laboratory is Llewellyn 
Park, the private residential quarter of the town, and 
one of the most beautiful localities in New Jersey. 
On the Orange Mountain were fought most of the 
"battles" which took place during the South African 
war — for the kinetoscope ; and the writer well remem- 
bers seeing the eastern slope of Orange Mountain 
alive with men, "Boers" and "British," fighting 
for their rights in the famous engagement of Spion 
Kop. A good-sized cannon was used to heighten the 
effect, and the kinetoscope was in position taking 
the moving pictures when, through some blunder, 
the gun was discharged prematurely, and the "officer 
in command" and two of his men were struck by the 
wad and burnt by the powder. They were carried 
off the field on ambulances, and the incident added 
considerably to the success of the series of pictures, 
but during future engagements more reliable men 
were placed in charge of the ordnance, and thus real- 
ism was kept within reasonable bounds. 



The main building of the Edison laboratory is 250 
feet long and three stories high, while the four small 
buildings are each 100 feet by 25 feet and one story 
high. The laboratory is being constantly added to, 
and each year sees some improvement or enlarge- 
ment. At the present time immense factories are 
being erected for the manufacture of the storage bat- 
tery, but these buildings can hardly be included in 
the laboratory proper. 

On first entering, one is ushered into a fine library, 
100 feet square and fully 40 feet high. It has two 
spacious galleries containing a magnificent collection 
of minerals and gems which Edison purchased in 
Paris many years ago. The books which have been 
gathered together in this spacious room number close 
upon sixty thousand volumes, and include every maga- 
zine and journal dealing with scientific research pub- 
lished during the last forty years. They are in French, 
German, Italian, and English, for though Edison 
only speaks and writes his native tongue, he can read 
these foreign languages with considerable fluency. 

The library is plainly but comfortably furnished. 
There are few rugs on the polished oaken floor, for 
Edison does not believe in carpets — they collect 
microbes and are, in consequence, far from healthful. 
The oak chairs are leather-seated, and carved on the 
back are Edison's initials in monogram form — T. A. E. 
There is a large table for "Board Meetings," as well 
as two roll-top desks, an immense clock which takes 
up almost one entire side of the room, various alcoves 
furnished with little tables for the convenience of those 
who desire to study, portraits of various famous scien- 
tists, a bust of Humboldt, and a statuette of Sandow. 
Edison's desk is situated in a comer of the room, but 
he is very seldom to be found at it, for he prefers to 












spend his time in the chemical laboratory or the work- 
shop. Beside the desk is a '' corresponding phono- 
graph," into which the inventor sometimes dictates 
his letters, which are afterwards transcribed by his 
secretary, J. F. Randolph. 

The principal object of interest in the library is a 
life-sized statue entitled "The New Genius of Light," 
which Edison bought at the Paris Exposition of 1889, 
where it occupied the place of honor in the depart- 
ment devoted to Italian art. It is the work of A. Bor- 
diga, of Rome, and Edison was so delighted with the 
subject as well as the treatment of the statue that he 
purchased it. Perhaps it was made for the express 
purpose of attracting Edison, and, if so, the sculptor 
succeeded admirably. It is an allegorical figure 
typifying the triumph of electricity over every other 
kind of illumination, represented by a youth with 
wings half spread leaning upon the broken fragments 
of a street gas lamp. High above his head he holds 
an incandescent lamp, while at his feet are grouped 
a voltaic pile, telephone transmitter, telegraph key, 
and gear wheel. The statue is moimted on a pedestal 
three feet high, and the electric lamp which is held 
aloft is one of fifty candle-power. 

Near Edison's desk is an alcove containing a small 
table and a chair, and here the inventor was accus- 
tomed to take his modest lunch. On one occasion, the 
writer was present when the meal was brought in, 
and it may interest the reader to learn that it consisted 
of some bread, a piece of cheese, and a portion of fish. 
There was, apparently, nothing to drink. Less than 
a year ago Edison also kept a little cot in the library, 
where he used to sleep for half an hour during the day 
or when stopping late at night. This bed, however, 
has lately been removed to another room in the labora- 


tory, as the inventor found that during the cold weather 
the library was not sufficiently heated to satisfy his 
love of warmth. Edison can drop off to sleep at a 
moment's notice, and has frequently been slumbering 
quietly while the writer has been busy near by exam- 
ining the thousands of papers bearing on his work 
which the inventor placed at his disposal. Edison 
sleeps as gently as a child, and invariably lies with 
his right cheek resting upon his hand. No sound 
disturbs him, and he could probably iSnd repose quite 
as profound were he to seek it in a boiler factory. 
He never suffers from insonmia, and has frequently 
taken his rest on a pile of sawdust or even a deal board. 
He has the ability to accommodate himself to circum- 
stance, and if he had to sleep on a fence or a telegraph 
wire he would probably secure a very refreshing rest 
and awake fully recuperated. 

Speaking of sleep recalls an interesting story which 
Edison is fond of relating about a man who called 
upon him once asking for work, and in the coiu^ of 
conversation stated that he was a martyr to insomnia. 
Edison was delighted to hear it, and told his visitor 
that he was just the man he had been looking for. As 
he didn't require any sleep he would be able to work 
all the longer, and might get busy right away. "So," 
says Edison, "I put him to work on a merciuy pump, 
and kept him at it night and day. At the end of sixty 
hours I left him for half an hour, and when I returned 
there he was, the pump all broken to pieces and the 
man fast asleep on the ruins. He never had an attack 
of sleeplessness after that." 

Near the library is the stock-room, where every- 
thing necessary to scientific experimenting may be 
found, and in quantities which will possibly last for 
years. At one time there used to be a reward offered 


to the employee who succeeded in mentioning any 
substance used in science which could not be foimd 
in the Edison stock-room. At first the "boys" earned 
a few dollars unearthing rare materials, but finally 
they gave it up, and now it is only the greenest of new 
hands who can be prevailed upon to enter for the 
prize. The stock-room is long and narrow but of 
considerable height, and contains thousands of small 
drawers, reaching from the floor to the roof, labelled 
with a hundred queer titles, such as ores, needles, 
shells, macaroni, fibres, inks, teeth, bones, gums, 
resins, and feathers. A peep into an old order book 
is in itself a revelation, for there you will find invoices 
for ten thousand different kinds of chemicals, as well 
as every kind of screw made, every sized needle, every 
kind of rope, wire, twine and cord, skins, human and 
animal hair, silk in every process of manufacture, 
peacocks' tails, amber, meerschaum, hoofs, varnish 
and oils, every kind of bark and cork, resin and glass. 
Visitors frequently ask in wonder what all these queer 
materials are useful for in the way of scientific work, 
and, if the question is put to Edison himself, the in- 
ventor will smile and answer: "You are evidently 
not a man of science, or you would know that almost 
every substance known can be brought into use in a 
chemical or experimental laboratory. At one time 
I was seriously hampered in my work by not having 
the materials necessary to enable me to carry out my 
investigations, but now I am happy to say that any 
experiment may be conducted here, if necessary, at a 
moment's notice." Some of the substances preserved 
in the stock-room are so rare and so minute that they 
are kept in small folds of tissue paper, like diamonds, 
which they probably equal in rarity. 
One of the most interesting sections of the labora- 


tory is the galvanometer building, which stands by 
itself about 30 feet from the library. It is really one 
long room of heroic size, and lighted by a dozen immense 
windows. In its construction not a speck of iron was 
used, everything being of brass. The cost, which 
was great, subsequently proved to be so much money 
wasted, for it had not been erected more than a few 
months when the electric cars were run past the very 
door, thus rendering futile Edison's costly endeavor 
to banish " magnetic influence." This room contains 
many things of interest connected with Edison's early 
inventions. There are the first models of the vote 
recorder, the gold and stock ticker, the picture tele- 
graph (a device for transmitting photographs over 
the wires), the duplex and quadruplex telegraphs, 
the microphone, the mimeograph, and the like. Then 
there is a costly and rare collection of galvanometers, 
electrometers, photometers, spectrometers, spectro- 
scopes, and chronographs. There is also a wonderful 
set of acoustic instruments, which were used in con- 
nection with the perfecting of the phonograph, as 
well as a number of anatomical models of the ear and 
throat. Neither the first phonograph nor the first 
incandescent lamp is shown, both these interesting 
records of Edison's most famous inventions being 
preserved in the South Kensington Museum, England. 
The writer asked Edison why he allowed these incom- 
parable mementos to go out of his possession, and he 
explained that some years ago an Englishman paid 
him a visit, and seemed so anxious to have them that 
he cheerfully gave them up. He appeared rather 
surprised that people should take so much interest 
in such things. 

The galvanometer room is furnished with massive 
stone tables built on solid brick foundations and capped 


with slabs of polished slate. On these tables the in- 
struments are tested with absolute correctness, for per- 
fect immobility is insured. The room is also provided 
with a constant flow of hot, cold, and distilled water, 
every kind of gas, live steam, hydrogen, electricity of 
diflferent pressures, waste pipes, and electric lights. 

At the head of the galvanometer room is Edi- 
son's private chemical laboratory — the sanctum sane- 
iorum — where the inventor spends most of his time, 
and where many of his inventions have either originated 
or been perfected. It is probably the smallest room 
in the laboratory and almost destitute of furniture. 
A table and two chairs (one broken), with a kind of 
dresser nmning aroimd the room with shelves above 
on which are piled innumerable bottles, constitute 
the contents of this historic apartment. Very few 
are permitted to enter this room — only those who 
are closely connected with the inventor in his experi- 
mental work — though when he is seated at his table 
(in all probability occupying the more rickety of the 
two chairs) solving some scientific problem, he is so 
absorbed as to be perfectly imconscious of any one 
who might enter. It is in this room that Edison used 
to spend days and nights without taking any rest, and 
often so engrossed in his experiments as even to forget 
to eat. Busy men sometimes can only find time to 
board at home, but Edison didn't even do that, imtil 
one day yoimg Mrs. Edison put her small foot down 
and insisted on her husband returning to the house 
at a reasonable hour, and in order that he should not 
have the excuse of saying that he had nowhere to work, 
she had a laboratory built and furnished at the Llewellyn 
Park home, where the inventor now prosecutes his 
scientific investigations during the "small hours" 
as diligently as he desires. 


Besides the private chemical laboratory there is 
another and a larger apartment fitted up on similar 
lines and presided over by Fred Ott, Edison's right- 
hand man in experimental work. This room is lofty, 
spacious, and splendidly lighted, furnished with every 
contrivance necessary to scientific experimenting, and 
replete with filters, stills, "muflfles" (used for car- 
bonizing or reducing chemicals), fume chambers, test 
tubes (for testing the solution of the storage battery), 
every kind of chemical, numerous charts, and so on. 
Experiments take place every day in this room, and 
occasionally they are conducted by scientists who 
visit Edison, and who are desirous of showing him a 
few things of interest. Edison likes to see others 
making experiments, and in 1900 he was much inter- 
ested in watching Louis Dre)rfus, of Frankfort-on- 
Main, melt a bar of steel in a temperature of 5400 
degrees Fahrenheit, generated by what was then a new 
process, invented in Essen, Germany. The process 
consisted, briefly, in the combustion of a certain chemi- 
cal compound in connection with powdered aluminium. 
Mr. Dreyfus placed in a crucible a bar of steel six 
inches in length and half an inch in diameter. Around 
it he scattered a teacupful of his chemical, and pouring 
on this a small quantity of powdered aluminium, he 
touched a match to it and in an instant it blazed up, 
throwing out an intense heat. In less than ten seconds 
by the watch the steel bar -was completely melted. 
Edison was highly delighted with the experiment, said 
that the process was one which he had been in search 
of for a long time, and ordered a quantity of the chemi- 
cal for his own use. It was one of the most successful 
and interesting exhibitions ever given by an outsider 
in the laboratory, and Edison extended a cordial invi- 
tation to the German scientist to come and show further 
wonders whenever he had the opportunity. 



The "X-ray" room, which is in charge of E. Dally, 
is a small apartment on the first floor, and contains 
the identical machine which Edison sent down to 
Buffalo at the time of President McKinley's assas- 
sination, in order to locate the bullet. Curiously 
enough it was never used, and by a combination of 
circumstances its errand of mercy was rendered futile. 
The story of its joumeyings is worth relating, for the 
question is still asked whether the President's life 
might not have been saved had the X-ray machine 
been used. 

Almost directly after the President was shot a tele- 
phone message was received at the Edison labora- 
tory asking if a machine might be held in readiness, 
should it be considered desirous to send one to Buffalo. 
Edison himself was consulted, and replied that the 
instrument could be forwarded at a moment's notice; 
and on the Saturday afternoon, about 2.30, another 
message was received asking for the apparatus to be 
forwarded at once. Two young men from the labora- 
tory accompanied it — Charles W. Luhr and Clarence 
T. DaUy. 

They arrived in Buffalo Sunday morning, and were 
busy installing the plant in the Millbum house, when 
a message came to say that the machine would not 
be required for at least a week, as it was considered 
unwise to search for the bullet just then owing to the 
condition of the patient. As a matter of fact the 
doctors had come to the conclusion that the spent 
missile was located in a spot where it might safely be 
allowed to remain without any danger of decreasing 
the President's chance of- recovery. A few days later 
Mr. McKinleJr had so far rallied that the Vice-Presi- 
dent (Mr. Roosevelt) rejoined his family. Senator 
Hanna left for Cleveland, and two of the doctors took 


train for New York. Charles F. Luhr returned to 
the laboratory, and only Dally was left with the machine. 
Every one was hopeful, and the President continued 
to improve for some days, when there was a sudden 
and alarming change for the worse. One of the 
doctors took it upon himself to inform Dally that 
neither he nor his machine would be needed, but the 
yoimg operator continued at his post waiting for a 
possible summons. Finally, the end came, and appar- 
ently the X-ray was destined to take no part in the 

The following day Dally left for Niagara Falls, 
which he was very desirous of viewing before returning 
to New York, firmly convinced that there was no use 
in his remaining any longer in Buffalo, and the machine 
was taken down. The autopsy on the body of the 
late President was to be held the same day, when it 
was confidently expected that the bullet would be 
found, but, after a search lasting an hour and a half, 
it had not been recovered. Then a call was made for 
the X-ray as the only means of locating the mysteri- 
ously hidden bullet, but it had been taken apart, and 
the operator could not be foimd. An hour was spent 
trying to find him, and then the doctors decided that 
the progranmie of arrangements did not permit them 
to expend any more time over the autopsy, and as a 
result the bullet was never recovered and the X-ray 
never used. To those interested in the progress of 
Professor Roentgen's discovery it was a great disap- 
pointment that circumstances had so contrived that 
the machine was not even given a chance of assisting 
in the effort to save the Chief Magistrate's life; and 
by no one more than Edison was regitt felt, for he 
had had high hopes that it would have helped materi- 
ally in prolonging the life of the President. 


Four years later the young man who had taken Ihe 
X-ray apparatus to Buffalo, and who had stood to his 
post so faithfully, if uselessly, died from the rays of the 
very machine he had assisted in convejring on its mer- 
ciful errand. For some considerable time Dally had 
suffered from a mysterious skin complaint generated 
by experimenting with the X-ray, and his case had at- 
tracted the attention of medical and scientific men in 
all parts of the country. The disease began with small 
red patches resembling scalds but devoid of pain. Six 
months later his hands began to swell, and he had to 
relinquish his work in the Edison laboratory. But he 
was not altogether incapacitated, and spent his time 
setting X-ray machines in hospitals and colleges. At 
that work he remained for two years, though his hands 
became more and more affected. Then the bums com- 
menced to smart and tingle, and finally great agony set 
in. Indeed, so intense were his sufferings that at night 
he was obliged to lie with his arms in iced water in 
order to gain sufficient relief from the fiery torment to 
allow him a few intermittent periods of sleep. Photo- 
graphs of his hands were published, and the disease 
was followed with absorbing interest by scientists in 
Europe as well as America. 

Then cancer attacked the left wrist. Grafting was 
advocated, and 150 pieces of skin were taken from his 
legs in an endeavor to patch up the tissues, but granu- 
lation refused to follow, and the operation proved a 
failure. The disease now made rapid progress, and the 
left arm was amputated a few inches below the shoulder. 
It was hoped that the progress of the malady had been 
checked, but three months later the little finger of the 
right hand became affected, and the knife was again 
brought into use. The right wrist was next attacked, 
and after skin-grafting had again been tried and failed. 


the arm was amputated four inches below the elbow. 
In spite of all Dally was in high hopes that at last he 
was free from the terrible, mysterious disease, and had 
artificial arms made, but almost immediately after- 
wards his entire system fell a victim to the strange 
malady, and the doctors gave up hope. To within a 
week of his death Dally was optimistic, then his brain 
became paralyzed, he lost consciousness and died 
martyr to a disease for which no cure has yet been 
found. But his death was not one to be entirely and 
solely mourned as a useless calamity, inasmuch as it 
drew attention to the dangers of the X-ray, and served 
as a warning to all operators against bringing their 
hands 4oo frequently into the flood of the mysterious 
light. Edison was deeply grieved at his co-worker's 
death, and did all in his power to effect his recovery 
by obtaining expert advice and treatment, but the 
malady was one which defied the whole medical world. 
To-day the death of Dally is a sore subject with the 
inventor, and one which he absolutely refuses volun- 
tarily to discuss. 

Near the X-ray department is a small room which 
apparently contains nothing of interest save a table, a 
chair, some lumber, and a lathe or two. But it has 
"associations," for here it was that Edison perfected 
the phonograph. Many days and nights of experi- 
menting have been spent in this room, but Edison 
never enters it now, for it is small and gloomy; it has 
performed its duty, however, and deserves to be pre- 
served. There are two machine shops, both spacious 
and excellently lighted by twenty-four windows apiece. 
One is known as the heavy machine shop, while the 
other is where all the light experimental machinery is 
made. The latter is presided over by John F. Ott, 
who superintends the making of all the small models. 


In the heavy machine shop, in charge of Robert A. 
Bachman, is turned out the big machinery used in the 
cement works and elsewhere, as well as the large battery 

Another interesting room is known as the Precision 
Room, where all the instruments are perfected. It is 
also in charge of Mr. Ott. Here the most delicate 
parts of the machinery used in the construction of the 
various inventions are made. There are many re- 
markable machines in this room, all of an automatic 
nature, such, for example, as the device by which the 
body of a phonograph is made in one operation. The 
metal box on which the phonograph is mounted is 
placed on the machine, and simultaneously eight holes 
are drilled, the box is milled, and the holes are reamed 
to size. This takes but a few minutes, and one man 
is able to turn out a himdred a day. 

Perhaps the room having the greatest amoimt of 
interest to the ordinary visitor is "No. 13," or the 
Phonograph Experimental Department. Formerly it 
was in the charge of A. T. E. Wangemann, who, im- 
fortunately, was run down and killed by a train dur- 
ing the summer of 1906. Everything connected with 
the "talking machine" is shown here — hundreds of 
records, forests of horns ranging in length from a few 
inches to eighteen feet, phonographs of all sizes and 
shapes, machines twenty years old and brand new, dia- 
phragms, musical instruments, a grand piano, an organ, 
and piles of music. No mechanical parts of the phono- 
graph are made in this room, for it is purely and solely 
used for experimental work directed towards obtaining 
better all-round results and superior records. 

"All the work done in this room," Mr. Wangemann 
remarked on the last occasion that the writer met him, 
" is concentrated on making better apparatus for record- 


ing and reproducing, better raw materials for cylinders, 
and better records, both blank and moulded. In fact, 
it is here that every effort at improving and advancing 
the present way of phonographic production and re- 
production is made. We are constantly experimenting 
with new records, new speakers, new horns or fimnels, 
and there is nothing we do not try in order to obtain 
absolute perfection of soimd reproduction." 

Edison has a small room partitioned off from this 
experimental department, where he sits and listens to 
new records for many hours at a time, scribbling on 
scraps of paper his opinions of the various reproduc- 
tions. In 1903 he spent the best part of seven months 
here endeavoring to render the phonograph more per- 
fect. He devotes much of his time to finding out the 
reasons for poor work, for he believes that more can 
be learned from things going wrong than from things 
which go well. " As is well known," said Mr. Wange- 
mann, "there is no substance of which we have at 
present any knowledge that is proof against influence 
by sound vibrations, or which will not transmit sound 
at some velocity. If it were possible to find a sub- 
stance which would be absolutely dead to sound, and 
yet solid enough to be used in mechanical construction, 
then one could obtain far superior reproductions of 
sound waves, both vocal and instrumental, than is 
at present possible. Such a substance will be found 
sooner or later, and then we shall be able to reproduce 
sound so perfectly that it will be impossible to distin- 
guish the voice of the man who makes a record from 
the record itself." 

The legal department of the Edison laboratory is 
under the charge of Frank L. Dyer, who employs a 
numerous staff and who is, perhaps, one of the hardest- 
worked individuals in the building. Although a mem- 













ber of a prominent firm of patent lawyers in New York, 
he spends practically his entire time at the laboratory, 
and there is little in regard to Edison's numerous in- 
ventions with which he is not acquainted. The writer 
had an interesting conversation with Mr. Dyer recently 
regarding his department, in the course of which the 
patent lawyer said: 

"Mr. Edison's work being based almost entirely on 
new inventions, a large part of my work has to do 
with patents and suits based thereon. Not only has 
Mr. Edison been by long odds the most prolific inventor 
and patentee of any time, but numerous and frequent 
applications for patents are being filed by experimenters 
connected with the several companies that are identified 
with the Edison interests, such as the National Phono- 
graph Company, the Edison M^ufacturing Company, 
the Edison Storage Battery Company, the Edison Port- 
land Cement Company, and about twenty others. Con- 
sequently there are always several hundred active 
applications for patents pending in this country and 
abroad, the special details of which have to be remem- 
bered in order that they may be properly prosecuted. 

"It is, of course, physically impossible for me or my 
department to attend personally to the many suits 
against infringers of the Edison patents all over the 
world, although they are conducted imder my own 
direction and some by me personally. In this work, 
however, I have the assistance of other lawyers in New 
York, Washington, Chicago, London, Paris, and else- 
where. In addition to the patent suits, there are many 
other legal actions of which this department has charge 
and many of which it directly conducts, such as the 
usual damage suits for personal injuries, actions based 
on contracts, matters of insurance, real estate, and so 


Edison has no great appreciation of the protection 
aflforded to inventors by the Patent Office, though he 
has generally been treated with great consideration by 
the officials. He thinks the system is all wrong. He 
does not believe in the life of a patent being as brief 
as it is, or that it should be possible for an inventor to 
be "held up" by any one who likes to bring in the 
most shadowy claim of priority. When such a claim 
is brought forward, declares Edison, the inventor should 
be given the benefit of the doubt, and allowed to con- 
tinue manufacturing his invention imtil the courts give 
their verdict. But as the law now stands the benefit 
lies entirely with the claimant — the work of the real 
inventor being held in abeyance while the former is 
given unlimited time to make good his case, which he 
is very seldom able to do. Edison has on more than 
one occasion stated that he would have been many 
hundreds of thousands of dollars better oflF had he 
never taken out a patent. The best thing a man can 
do when he believes he has invented something which 
the public wants is to go ahead and manufacture the 
particular article and then flood the market with it. 
This is the only hope for him. He will then possibly 
make money before the pirates come along. 

Three years ago Edison had an interesting case on 
with the United States Patent Office. The inventor 
had made application for a certain patent, and while 
this was pending the examiner, it was stated, had al- 
lowed some one else, who had sent in an application 
along somewhat similar lines, to take out his applica- 
tion for the purpose of inserting facts which were 
covered by the Edison application. This was quite 
irregular, for according to Patent Office laws no one 
is permitted to withdraw an application and insert 
something which may afterwards have occurred to 


him. When Edison's attorney heard of these irregu- 
larities he asked the Commissioner for a new hearing, 
which was refused. The attorney made a second ap- 
plication to the Commissioner with the same resuh, 
and then he carried his case to the President. Mr. 
Roosevelt listened attentively to the facts, and then 
replied: "What Mr. Edison asks is not imreasonable. 
He occupies a peculiar position in this inventive age, 
and he shall be given an opportimity to be heard." 
The President then wrote to the Commissioner direct- 
ing that Edison be given a new hearing, which subse- 
quently took place. 

Employed in the Edison laboratory are about a him- 
dred men, consisting of electricians, skilled mechanics, 
mathematicians, photographers, draughtsmen, and mu- 
sicians, each of whom has his own particular line of 
work to attend to, and in the accomplishing of which 
he can always count on suggestion and encouragement 
from Edison, who is ever ready to advise. There is 
one thing, however, which Edison certainly is not, and 
that is a lightning calculator. This trait is very well 
indicated by a story told having reference to the occa- 
sion when he gave evidence in the Kemmler case aheady 
mentioned. He had asserted that the temperature of a 
tube of water the height of a man would rise 8 degrees 
Centigrade under the application of a certain current 
of electricity. Mr. Cockran, cross-examiner at the 
time, asked him how many degrees that meant on the 
Fahrenheit scale. 

"I don't know," responded Edison, who had been 
admonished by Mr. Cockran a little while before only 
to tell what he knew as absolute facts. 

"You don't know!" exclaimed Mr. Cockran. 
"Well, surely you could compute it for us?" 

"I don't compute such things," replied the inventor. 


"Well, how do you find it out, then?" queried the 

"I ask somebody," answered the electrician. 

"Whom do you ask?" 

"Oh, I have men to do such things," said Edison, 
stifling a yawn. 

"Are there any here now?" questioned Mr. Cock- 
ran, looking around at the crowd, among whom were 
several of Edison's assistants from Orange. 

"Yes, there is Mr. Kennelly," and straightway all 
eyes were fixed on Arthur E. Kennelly, Edison's head 
mathematician, who subsequently became President of 
the Institute of Electrical Engineers, and was generally 
believed to be the only man in America who was ever 
able to interpret the intricate system of mathematics 
evolved by the English electrician, Oliver Heavysides. 
Edison turned over the question of converting degrees 
Centigrade into degrees Fahrenheit to his associate, and 
Kennelly, after looking up at the ceiling in a meditative 
kind of way for a moment, performed the necessary 
mental calculation, and then gave the answer. 

Kennelly is but one of the clever men who gathered 
around Edison in his earlier days. Perhaps it is not 
generally known that Nikola Tesla served his appren- 
ticeship with Edison, and learned much that after- 
wards proved useful to him when he became an in- 
ventor and experimenter on his own account. Tesla 
called on Edison one day and asked for work, and, 
liking the look of the keen-faced, handsome Bohemian, 
Edison sent him to his foreman, a man named Fulton. 
The latter ofiFered to give the young foreigner a position 
on condition that he would work. Tesla swore he 
would slave until he dropped, and he almost kept his 
word. Fulton put him to the test, and kept him hard 
at work for a couple of days and nights, seldom giving 


him a chance to close his eyes. At the end of a fort- 
night if Tesla had secured forty-eight hours of sleep it 
was about as much as Fulton allowed him, and then 
the foreman magnanimously declared that he must 
have a rest. Moreover — feeling in a fairly generous 
mood — he invited Tesla to supper, and entering a 
caf^, ordered a steak — the biggest they had — with 
lots of vegetables and potatoes. When the steak came 
on the table its proportions were so huge that Fulton 
gasped, and declared four men couldn't finish it. How- 
ever, they went ahead, and in time the steak vanished. 
Then Fulton turned to the young man and asked if 
there was an3rthing else he would like. "You are out 
with me, you know," said the foreman, "and whatever 
you want jxist order it." Tesla looked vaguely around 
for a minute, as if cogitating over the matter, and then 
in a somewhat embarrassed voice h« said, " Mr. Fulton, 
if you don't mind, I would like another steak." To 
those who know Tesla this story is doubly amusing, as 
the electrician is particularly tall and thin, and gives 
indication of rather a poor appetite than otherwise. 

Among others who have worked with Edison men- 
tion should be made of Francis R. Upton, mathe- 
matician, who solved many difficult problems in the 
transmission and distribution of electricity; Charles 
Bachelor; John Krusei; Stockton L. GriflSn and 
Samuel Insull, who looked after Edison's financial 
and business interests; Charles L. Clarke, whose name 
will always be remembered in connection with the 
economy test on the incandescent lamp; Charles T. 
Hughes, who worked on the Edison electric locomotive; 
Luther Stieringer; J. H. Vail, in charge of the dyna- 
mos at one time; Francis Jehl, who worked long and 
arduously on the Edison meter; Martin Force, who 
assisted in the perfecting of the loud-talking telephone; 


John Ott, the expert mechanician, who thought nothing 
of making moulds for lamp filaments to the ten-thou- 
sandth part of an inch, and who secured several pat- 
ents for ingenious mechanical devices; and Ludwig K. 
Boehm, who prepared the delicate bulbs for the lamps 
and the mercury pumps for exhausting them. 

An amusing story is related of Boehm when he was 
working on his pumps, which may be recalled here. 
He had met with a series of mishaps in his work, and 
was considerably discouraged, when a bright youth who 
was assisting him said, 'Xouldn't we put the lamps in 
a balloon and send them up high enough to fill them 
with vacuum and then seal them off up there ? " Boehm 
gave a contemptuous gnmt, but Edison, who was stand- 
ing near, said, "Good idea; we'll have to take out a 
patent on that, sure." "But," queried another, "how 
can we seal them off if there is no air to use in the 
blowpipe ? " Edison regarded the objector with a fixed 
stare for a moment, and then, in a voice of assumed 
disgust and with a long-drawn sigh, answered: "That's 
always the way. No sooner does a man bring out a 
brilliant and practical idea but some ignoramus must 
needs interfere and try to show a reason why the 
scheme is impractical. There's no chance for a real 
bright inventor nowadays." 

Others who have worked in the Edison laboratory, 
and whose names will long be remembered, are : E. H. 
Johnson, one of the earliest of Edison's associates, 
who, among other things, took the electric light to 
England ; S. Bergmann, who was left in charge of the 
Newark factory after the inventor went to Menlo Park, 
and who subsequently became the largest manufacturer 
of electrical apparatus in the United States, and now 
owns very large works in Germany; Frank Sprague, 
who resigned from the navy to go with Edison, and 


whfle with him invented the "Sprague Electric Sys- 
tem"; Frank MacGowan, whom Edison sent to South 
America to look for bamboo suitable for lamp fila- 
ments; James Seymour, who took the telephone to 
England, and afterwards became famous for solving 
ventilating and lighting problems in connection with 
skyscrapers, tunnels, and subcellars; W. K. L. Dick- 
son, who interested himself in the kinetoscope, bio- 
graphed the Pope, and wrote an interesting history of 
Edison and his inventions; Acheson, whose work is 
well known at Niagara Falls in respect to electric power; 
H. Ward-Leonard, the inventor of a system for movmg 
turrets on war-ships by electricity; Philip Seubel, who 
installed the first electric plant ever put on a war-ship ; 
and August Weber, who invented a new kind of porce- 
lain and made a fortune out of it. 

Edison has always shown consummate skill in choos- 
ing as his associates and workpeople men capable of 
withstanding long hours of continuous labor, and even 
when a very yoimg man possessed the faculty for in- 
spiring them with his own enthusiasm, determination, 
and boundless energy. When he told the writer a 
short time ago that he had on several occasions spent 
from three to five days and nights in succession over 
an invention, he added: ''But there are many men 
here who become so absorbed over any new discovery 
that they cheerfully give up their rest and sleep for the 
same length of time to help me work out my ideas. 
They are great boys." Perhaps there is something 
more to account for the affection with which the em- 
ployees, from the highest to the lowest, regard their 
chief than that which his genius and powers of en- 
durance engender. And it is not far to seek. Edison 
will never allow any of his men to be "called down" 
by an outsider if he can help it, and Mr. Dickson gives 


a good example of this characteristic by relating an 
incident which took place twenty years and more ago, 
when one of his electricians was summoned to give the 
bearings of some intricate electrical problem before a 
Board of Inquiry. 

In giving his evidence the man made several mis- 
statements, which were taken exception to by some of 
the members before whom he was testifying, but the 
general verdict was waived in consequence of Edison's 
authoritative support of his employee. No sooner, how- 
ever, was the room cleared than the inventor turned to 
the young man and said: "Now, see here, you were 
wrong about the whole affair. I saw that at a glance." 
" You did, Mr. Edison ? " stammered the other, amazed. 
"Then why did you endorse me?" "Because I was 
not going to let that crowd have the satisfaction of 
crowing over you if I could help it," was the reply. Is 
it to be wondered at if the man afterwards declared 
that he would go to the ends of the earth and further 
for such a chief? 

A quality which Edison admires most in a workman 
is his ability to keep silence. Any employee who talks 
outside about things which he has no right to men- 
tion he has no use for. On one or two occasions a 
workman — smart and ambitious, perhaps — has ob- 
tained a position in the Edison laboratory, and soon 
after been "fired" through his insatiable fondness for 
gossip. When given a fortnight's money and shown 
the door he has felt aggrieved, not realizing that he 
possesses every sense but common sense, and has yet 
to learn the value of silence. There are in the Edison 
laboratory, more perhaps than in any other, secrets 
which have to be guarded, and did bis workmen talk 
the results of Edison's investigations would, of course, 
become known long before he desired to take the public 


into his confidence. Hence the value the inventor 
places on a man's ability to ''hold his tongue." 

Edison is always affable and genial with his work- 
people, calls them by their Christian names, and never 
fails to note if any man is away sick and to inquire for 
him. He chats and jokes with the humblest of them, 
and the writer has a vivid recollection of seeing the 
inventor seated on a table in the chemical laboratory 
listening to a funny story related to him by the youngest 
boy in his employ, laughing heartily and imaffectedly, 
and apparently in no way thinking that there was 
anything strange or out of the ordinary in conversing 
thus intimately with what elsewhere would be called 
the "oflBce boy." But no one tak^s imdue advantage 
of such familiarity, and Edison probably gets better 
results out of his people by the exhibition of this genial- 
ity and good-hmnor than if he cultivated a sternness 
and aloofness which he does not feel. 

Edison himself has played many a practical joke 
upon his employees, and in the early phonograph days 
he enjoyed many a laugh on them with the aid of his 
"talking machine." Sometimes, however, the joke 
was on him, as was instanced by the "fake cigar" 
story, which was a popular Edison anecdote twenty 
odd years ago. Edison was always an inveterate 
smoker, and used to keep a number of boxes of cigars 
in his room, and these were a constant object of in- 
terest to his associates. First one man, then another, 
would enter the room, ask Edison some trivial ques- 
tion, and when leaving would manage, unseen, to in- 
sert his hand in one of the boxes and annex three or 
four choice cigars. Edison began to suspect something 
of the kind, and one day he called on his tobacconist, ex- 
plained things, and got the man to fix up some fearful 
"smokes," consisting of old bits of rag, tea leaves, and 


shavings, and worth about two dollars a barrel. These 
were done up in attractive-looking boxes, and delivered 
to the laboratory. Nothing happened, however; there 
was a falling off in the number of Edison's visitors, 
but no casualties were reported. Then one day Edison 
again called at the store, and inquired of his dealer if 
he had forgotten to send up the fake cigars. "Why, 
Mr. Edison," replied the amazed tobacconist, "I sent 
up ten boxes of the worst concoctions I could make 
two months ago. Ain't your men through with them 
yet?" Then Edison made a rapid calculation, divided 
the number of cigars by his daily allowance, and was 
forced to the painful conclusion that he had consumed 
those "life destroyers" himself. There and then he 
gave a big order for his usual brand, and his cigars 
disappeared once more with their accustomed celerity. 
Occasionally the men get up a joke on their chief, 
and they much enjoyed themselves about the time that 
Edison's daughter Madelyn was bom — some eighteen 
years ago. The technical assistants got together and 
declared that something should be done to celebrate 
the event, and at first it was proposed to serenade the 
happy father. The suggestion, however, was vetoed 
at a committee meeting, and instead it was decided to 
draw up plans for a mechanical cradle intended to save 
Mrs. Edison worry and trouble in managing the baby. 
"Several ideas outside cradles," wrote one of the 
plotters some years later, "were submitted to the com- 
mittee ; but the thought of the Wizard ambling up and 
down the room in the dead of night, occasionally step- 
ping on a semi-submerged tack, was too much for us, 
so the cradle was decided upon. It was called the 
* Automatic Electric Baby Tender,' and the plan 
showed an ordinary cradle with ingenious devices for 
the child's comfort and correct training attached. 


"Immediately above the spot where the baby's head 
would lie was a diaphragm somewhat resembling a 
telephone receiver. If the infant should start crying, 
at the first wail commimication was established between 
the diaphragm and an electric clock, and the cradle was 
set rocking by means of a small motor. If the remon- 
strance continued beyond a certain time, the dock re- 
leased a lever and an arm attached to the side of the 
cradle, operated by a crank carrying a nursing bottle, 
was swimg over the baby's mouth. If hunger was not 
the trouble and the wails continued, another arm on 
the opposite side swimg over the child's mouth with 
paregoric, at the same time the electric current was 
turned into a set of magnets placed around the cradle, 
and any pin which might be causing the trouble would 
be at once removed. If the yells continued, the 'thirty- 
third degree' was applied. Two arms, lying flat in 
the cradle under the baby, were slowly raised and the 
child turned over. Then an electric spanker fastened 
to the foot-board proceeded to do its work with neat- 
ness and despatch." Although no model accompanied 
the plan, Edison was, nevertheless, delighted with the 
tHoughtfulness of his associates, and declared that he 
was sure a patent would be granted to them if they 
applied for one. Some nervous mothers might not 
care to trust their ofiFspring to the tender mercies of 
the "Automatic Electric Baby Tender," but doubtless, 
he said, a sufficient number would risk it and thus 
make the proposition a going concern. The plan of 
this remarkable cradle is still preserved, or was until a 
few years ago, and both Mr. and Mrs. Edison enjoyed 
many a good laugh studying its ingenious details. 

At the time, it was not his associates alone that took 
so great an interest in Edison's baby, but the entire 
world seemed excited over the event. Leading articles 


appeared in almost every newspaper, and the com- 
ments were interesting, amusing, astounding, or ludi- 
crous. Naturally all these sallies afiforded Edison consid- 
erable amusement, for though the joke was on him, he 
could still see the humor of it. Some kind friend col- 
lected a lot of the published stories and sent them to 
him in a batch, and a few the inventor read to his wife, 
who, however, scarcely appreciated to the full the at- 
tention her baby was attracting. Even Edison thought 
the joke had gone far enough when visitors to the labo- 
ratory began to inquire after the various inventions 
which the electrician was reported to have created in 
order to make easy his baby's path through infancy. 
Finally, when one of these inquisitive and wholly 
gullible persons asked if he really had evolved a means 
whereby a baby's crying could be muffled without in- 
jury to the infant, Edison got very tired and decided 
to bring the interview to a conclusion as soon as the 
opportunity offered. It was not long coming. 

Suddenly the visitor espied a peculiar-looking struc- 
ture standing in one comer of the experimental room, 
and in a voice of intense interest inquired, "What's 
that?" "Why," replied Edison with a look of pro- 
found gravity and in a low tone, "that's the patent 
cradle that every one's talking about. It will be a 
great success, and I hope to make a lot of money out 
of it. It's not altogether perfect as yet, but I can tell 
you privately (though of course you won't say any- 
thing about it, as I don't want some smart fellow to 
get the idea and take out a patent before I have filed 
mine) that when finished there will be a motor attached 
which runs by sound, so that the louder the baby cries 
the faster the cradle rocks. It's a great scheme, and 
you must come and see it when I have it working." 
The visitor, somewhat suspicious at last, but murmur- 


ing that it was wonderful, soon after took his departure, 
and that was the last of the patent cradle joke. 

One more story and this long chapter may well 
come to an end. It has to do with a boy who came to 
the Edison laboratory full of determination to become 
a famous inventor, but who, owing to a sensitive nature 
and an unfortunate incident, failed in his ambitions 
when on the very threshold of his career and abandoned 
invention in favor of an occupation less distinctive. 
The anecdote is here given as related by an interviewer 
some years ago, whose name the present writer has been 
unable to trace, and who will, perhaps, forgive being 
accorded the customary credit under the circumstances. 

"Six or seven years ago a new boy was employed in 
the Orange laboratory, and forced Edison to give an 
account of himself. It happened in this way. The 
boy was first of all told all about the man for whom 
he was to work. Then he was informed of the tradi- 
tions of the establishment. He was told that the main 
building contained a piece of every known substance 
on earth, and that if he could name any substance not 
in the building he would be awarded a prize of $2.50. 
He was also told that his especial duty would be to 
guard the room in which Mr. Edison worked, it being 
important that the inventor be not disturbed by curiosity- 
seekers or schemers who often tried to reach him. Then 
the boy was placed on guard, full to the brim of the 
importance of his position. But one serious omission 
had been made by his instructor : he had not told him 
what Mr. Edison was like. So when, soon after he 
took up his post, the boy was approached by a some- 
what shabbily dressed man who attempted to brush 
past him, he grabbed that man in such a way that the 
man stopped and gasped in astonishment. 

"'What is the matter with you, boy?' demanded 
the man indignantly. 


"'You can't go in there/ retorted the boy with just 
as much spirit. 

"'Why not?' said the man. 

"'Because no one can go in there without written 
permission, or when Mr. Edison sends out for him.' 

"'I see/ said the man, and then he turned on his 
slippered heel and walked ofiF, while the boy looked 
after the dirty yellow duster which the man wore, and 
said several things to himself not at all complimentary 
to 'blokes wot would try to bluff past him.' 

" But the boy was surprised about five minutes after- 
wards to see the man in the yellow duster coming back 
accompanied by the 'instructor,' who looked very, very 
serious, and who said — 

"'Don't you know who this gentleman is?' 

"'No,' said the boy; 'but he didn't have any pass, 
and Mr. Edison wasn't with him.' 

'"Why, this is Mr. Edison,' gasped the instructor. 

"The boy collapsed. 

"'Can I go in?' said the inventor with a twinkle 
in his eye. But the boy hung his head, while the in- 
structor started to berate him for his mistake. Then 
Edison turned around and stopped that instructor on 
the spot, while he at the same time commended the 
boy for his vigilance. It was the fault of the teacher, 
not the boy, he said. 

"Nevertheless the effect of the incident on the boy 
was such that he never could enter the same room 
without a visible tremor. Edison, who is fond of a 
joke, sought to reassure him by winking at him tre- 
mendously every time he came in, but that didn't seem 
to mend matters. One day he was very sick, and an 
investigation showed that he had been endeavoring to 
increase his courage by chewing tobacco. It nearly 
killed him, and he resigned his position in consequence." 



Of the many thousands of volumes in the library 
of the Orange laboratory none have a greater fascination 
for the visitor than the famous "Notion Books," a 
series of folio volumes containing the results of Edison's 
investigations covering a space of nearly thirty-five 
years. They constitute the documentary evidence 
of original invention, and have, on more than one 
occasion, been produced in a court of law to bear silent 
witness in suits based on Edisonian patents. In these 
books will be found minute details of every invention 
patented since the quadruplex made Edison's name 
famous in telegraphy, besides which there are hundreds 
of ideas, or "notions," for inventions which have never 
materialized. Yet Edison does not keep these precious 
volumes under lock and key, but on the open shelves 
of his library, where they are at the service of any visitor 
who has the etUrSe to the laboratory. 

Edison calls these volumes his "Day Books," for 
they contain the daily records of his experiments, 
together with sketches of machines drawn by him in 
pen and ink. Each and every page is dated, and the 
date attested by three witnesses chosen from the as- 
sistants who happened to be with the inventor at the 
time of making the entries. Every illustration is also 
initialled by the witnesses, as well as every paragraph 
of importance and every formula. The object of so 



much care and detail was, of course, to provide evidence 
in possible lawsuits afiFecting patent rights, and their 
usefulness in this respect has been proved over and over 
again, both in Europe as well as America, for they 
have crossed the ocean more than once to appear as 
witness against plagiarists of the incandescent lamp 
and other inventions. 

An English scientist who called at the Edison labora- 
tory some years ago and was shown these volimies, 
declared that they had impressed him more than the 
most remarkable of the electrician's inventions. " It is 
necessary," he said afterwards, "to look over these day 
books in order to have a clear conception of the patience 
and rigorous methods, the workmanlike probity, and 
thoroughness with which Edison hunts after means to 
ends aimed at. They have inspired me with the most 
profoimd respect for this great inventor." 

The phraseology employed by Edison in his day- 
book records was a little too abstruse for the English 
scientist, however, and though he declared that the 
language used was "synthetic, strongly descriptive, 
and quaint," he was obliged to call on Dr. Moses and 
Mr. Lowry, Edison's representatives, who showed 
him the volumes, for some explanation of certain 
phrases. "He has clear terms," wrote the scientist 
to a friend, "which are probably current lingual coin 
at Menlo Park, but which would convey no scientific 
idea to a lecturer at the Royal Institution. A 'bug,' 
apparently (and it is frequently mentioned in these 
day books), is a difficulty which appears insurmoimt- 
able to the staff, but to the master it is * an ugly insect 
that lives on the lazy, and can and must be killed.' 
In one book I read the following remarkable para- 
graph: 'Awful lot of bugs still. Let Moses try what 
the following solution would do to rid us of them.' 


Dr. Moses informed me that in this case the 'bugs' 
were diflSculties in connection with the invention of the 
incandescent light." 

In a series of these day books, extending over a 
period of thirteen months, the pages look like an in- 
ventory of a heterogeneous mass of subjects. Figures, 
notes, sketches, diagrams, are jumbled together in a 
way which defy solution by any one but the inventor 
himself, who can, marvellous as it may appear, inter- 
pret every diagram and every figure, though he made 
them thirty years ago. Before each entry in these 
particular day books there are, for many columns, the 
letters "N.G." and a little mark made by Edison's pen, 
which indicates that he has done with the various items 
thus "ticked oflf." "N.G." stands for "No Good," 
and the substances named after these signs are the 
materials he tried and which he found useless in his 
attempt to make a perfect carbon button for the tele- 
phone. Turning over the pages one comes to other 
columns, on the left side of which are the letters "L.B.," 
"N.B.," "D.B.," "E.," which means "Little Better," 
"No Better," "Deuced (or any other word beginning 
with D) Bad," "Encouraging." All these "notes" 
have to do with the telephone and Edison's efiForts to 
make a perfect receiver. For thirteen months these 
entries show that he experimented with difiFerent mate- 
rials daily without being able to place beside the rec- 
ords any sign more favorable than the letter E. During 
those thirteen months he got "cold" and "warm" in 
turns, but never "hot," and then came the incident 
of the smoky kerosene lamp, the scraping away of the 
soot which covered the. inside of the glass, and the 
employment of it in connection with the carbon button. 
All these experiments with lampblack are carefully 
detailed in the day book, some being marked "V.E." 


("Very Encouraging")* success being thus qualified 
by reason of the fact that the soot was not pure, but 
the final entry is endorsed with the triumphant word 
"Eureka!" written in printed characters. He had 
found success in the application of soot of the highest 

The records covering the invention and peirfecting 
of the incandescent light fill many volumes. The 
hundreds of experiments which Edison made in 
his search for a suitable filament are fully detailed, 
and each record is marked with some initial which 
tells him whether he is on the right track or getting 
farther away from it. A portion of every substance 
he tried is also afiixed to the records of these experi- 
ments, and scattered through the pages you will find 
filaments of platinum, iridium, silicon and boron, as 
well as specimens of diflferent qualities of thread coated 
with plumbago, coal tar, cardboard, millboard, linen, 
from the finest to the coarsest, grape stalks, wood splints, 
cornstalks, and a himdred diflferent varieties of bam- 
boo. By these day books one learns that there are 1400 
varieties of bamboo, of which about three hundred 
only are useful for any purpose. At least two hun- 
dred varieties were experimented with by Edison. 
There is an interesting accoimt of one kind of bamboo 
which grows in certain parts of Japan. Beside this 
record is the word "Evureka" again, for it was exactly 
the fibre that Edison wanted in order to make his 
electric light an absolute success. There is a brief de- 
scription, too, as to the manner in which the bamboo 
must be treated in order to make the best filament. 
Not all the cane must be used, but only a certain minute 
portion, and it is important that the fibrous material 
be taken from the interior of the bamboo when it has 
reached a certain growth. There is also a "recipe" 



for the correct carbonizing of the fibre in order that the 
filament shall be of a very high resistance. All these 
records are, of course, signed and dated, so that it is 
possible to follow the inventing and perfecting of the 
incandescent light daily and almost hourly from the 
moment when Edison made his first experiment to that 
historic occasion when the trees of Menlo Park were 
stnmg with some three hundred glowing bulbs — the 
pioneers of a new and brilliant illuminant. 

As samples of other notations which appear in these 
remarkable books, the following items may be quoted 
as giving some idea of the varied character of those 
which have at different times flashed through Edison's 

"The matter in butter-nut shucks gives a color 
with sulphate of iron. Try butter-nute." 

" Chloroform is a test for iodine." 

"Experiment with the instantaneous formation of 
metallic tin-flake by chemical composition in glass and 
on paper to form metallic dots and dashes in paper for 

"Experiment on the speed, strength, current, and 
form of coil which is best to work by induction. It 
may be a primary of 20,000 ohms R. and a secondary 
of iO|Ooo ohms will work with very delicate current." 



Edison has been the recipient of many banquets, 
and doubtless the number would be considerably 
greater had it not been for his modesty and his frequently 
expressed request not to be ''lionized." He has a real 
and very strong objection to public dinners, and openly 
acknowledges that after attending one he feels more 
done up than if he had worked ceaselessly at some 
new invention for the better part of a week. As a con- 
sequence it must be something very important that will 
lure him from his quiet home and cause him to break 
his invariable rule of declining all banquets even when 
given in his honor. 

During the last few years two Edisonian dinners 
may be recalled, both being of so unique and interest- 
ing a character that some description appears almost 
necessary. The first of these was given on February 1 1, 
1904, at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, by the Amer- 
ican Institute of Electrical Engineers, in celebration 
of Edison's fifty-seventh birthday and the twenty- 
fifth anniversary of the invention of the incandes- 
cent electric-light S3rstem. In additional commemora- 
tion of the "double event" the "Edison Medal" was 
founded for the best thesis on current improvements in 
electricity, to be given annually by the Institute. Seven 
hundred of the most distinguished men and women in 



America attended to do homage to the inventor, and the 
banquet was one of the most notable ever given in New 

The tables were so arranged that every one could 
see the guest of honor as he sat, much to his own 
embarrassment, in front of a brilliant display of flags 
and beneath a pyramid of fifty-seven electric lamps. 
A painting of the little house where he was bom in 
Milan, Ohio, had been placed on the wall above his 
head, together with the shield of the " Buckeye State," 
the coats-of-arms of New Jersey and the Empire State. 
In front of him were miniature models in sugar show- 
ing many of his inventions. Wires stretched across 
the room connecting poles from which ran cables to a 
Marconi apparatus. At the inventor's right hand was 
the original duplex-sender, and at the receiving end the 
quadruplex which was being used at the Baltimore 
office of the Postal Telegraph Company at the time that 
the operators were forced to flee from the approachmg 
fire. Thousands of electric bulbs were strung along 
the galleries, festooned about the walls, and placed upon 
the numerous small tables. 

When all were seated, the mventor, smiling and 
happy, sounded "73'* — "Congratulations and best 
wishes" — on the Morse code, and the room shook 
with a mighty cheer. And after silence had been 
restored a number of messages addressed to the guest 
of the evening were read, among them being the follow- 

"I congratulate you as one of the Americans to 
whom America owes much, as one of the men whose 
life-work has tended to give America no small portion 
of its present position in the international world. — 
Theodore Roosevelt." 

" It is most unfortimate that I cannot be present when 


the 'King of the Telegraphers' is to 4)e crowned with 
the medal crown. Though absent, yet I here profess 
to the monarch loyal and imf^tering allegiance, swear- 
ing to rend^ him at any time and all times such service 
as the most potent head of the clan that ever ruled his 
people ever received from his humble and devoted 
subject. To which I hereby pledge our life, qjir fortime, 
and our sacred honor. Long life to 'King Edison the 
First.' — Andrew Carnegie." 

'' Hearty good wishes to Mr. Edison. I look back 
with greatest interest on his brilliant inventions in 
electric lighting and telephony, which I had the great 
pleasure of successfully maintaining in all the courts 
in England. — Alverstone." 

"I join heartily with the American Institute of 
Electrical Engineers in gratitude to Edison for his great 
electric; work and for the phonograph, a most exquisite 
and instructive scientific discovery, and for his many 
other useful and well-worked-out inventions for the 
public. — Kelvin." 

"I enthusiastically join in the honors paid to my 
dear and illustrious friend Edison, whose system I am 
proud to have introduced into Italy. — Colombo." 

"Admiring your great inventions, Hungarian friends 
send sincerest congratulations. — Etienne de Fodor." 

" Honor to your illustrious guest. Fraternal greetings 
to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. — 
AscoLi, President Italian Society of Electrical En- 

After this came Edison's own message, which read : 

"I want to thank you and all my fellow-mfimbers 
of the American Institute of Electrical t Engineers 
for the great honor done mi in thus telebratin^ my 
birthday, associated with thc^ twenty-fifth anniversary 
of the complete development and successful intro- 

BANqrUETS 257 

duction of the incandescent lamp. Your expressions 
of good-will gratify me gready, 

"The early days were enough to tire out any one's 
courage and persistence, but you stood it aU and put 
up with me into the bargain. Now, in noble revenge 
for the burdens I put on you, and in addition to all 
the evidences of friendship in the past, you add this 
unusual tdken of continued a£Fection. I should not 
be human if I were not profoundly afiFected and deeply 

"This medal' is founded to encourage young men 
to devote their best thought and work to electrical 
development. God bless them and you, my dear 
friends, and this American Institute of Electrical 

Then followed this fine tioast, proposed by the 

"As I am about to propose the health of pur guest, 
let me say there should be encouragement in the found- 
ing of this medal to-night for every struggling, ambitious 
youth in America. Let our sons recall and applaud 
the cheery little newsboy at Detroit; the half-shod, 
half-frozen operator seeking bravely a job along the 
icy pikes of the Central States; the gaunt, untutored 
experimenter in Boston taking eagerly much-needed 
fees for lectures he was too modest to deliver; the 
embryonic inventor in New York grub-staked by a 
famous Wall Street man for his first stock-ticker; 
the deaf investigator at Menlo Park who wreaked novel 
retaliation on his affliction by preserving human speech 

• forever with his phonograph; the prolific patentee 

• who kept the pathway to the Patent Office hot with 
his footsteps for nearly forty years; the genius, our 
comrade, who took this little crystal bulb in his Pro- 
methean 4iand, and with it helped to give the world a 


glorious new light which never was before on land or 
sea — Thomas Alva Edison." 

In his reply Edison telegraphed his speech, which 
consisted nnerely of a few words of thanks, by means 
of the Western Union Edison quadruplex instrument 
which was on the table beside him. The message 
was received on a "Postal" portable "quad" placed 
at the right of the speaker's table. The telegraph cir- 
cuit was looped on a wireless set of instruments, of 
which the transmitter was at the left of the speaker's 
table. It was so arranged fhat when Edison operated 
the key a spark was transmitted over the repeating 
sounder to the aerial transmitter, which conveyed a 
wireless message to the other end of the table. It was 
at 10.18 that Edison plp^ced his finger on his original 
Western Union quadruplex and proceeded to telegraph 
his message of thanks to Colonel A. B. Chandler, 
president of the Postal Telegraph Company. At 
least half those present understood the Morse code, 
and as soon as the instrument began to click there was 
complete silence, while the band softly played the open- 
ing strains of "Auld Lang Syne." A moment later, 
however, it was evident that there was something 
wrong, for the instrument clicked intermittently, and 
Mr: Chandler asked Edison to repeat several times. 
Finally Edison rapped out, "It's not up to me," 
and there was a hearty laugh from those who 
understood the Morse signals, but immediately after- 
wards the apparatus was adjusted and Edison suc- 
cessfully telegraphed his brief message. 

One of the prettiest and most interesting features 
of this unique banquet was the procession of waiters 
— over a hundred — bearing ices contained in models 
of motors, phonographs, switchboards, automobiles, 
incandescent apparatus, dynamos, megaphones, and 


batteries, the ices themselves being in the form of in- 
candescent bulbs. To each guest some souvenir was 
presented, either a small ivory box bearing a model of 
the "Genius with the Lamp," or a pin made in the 
miniature of an incandescent lamp. The menus were 
elaborate and beautiful, and bore a reproduction in 
raised medallion of a bronze bust of Edison, beneath 
which the inventor had inscribed his autograph. 

The second notable banquet to which special refer- 
ence may be made is remembered as the "Magnetic 
Dinner/' and it was given in honor of Edison, April 
15, 1905, at the Hotel Astor, New York. It was ar- 
ranged by the Magnetic Club, an important institution 
whose members consist of the officials and employees 
of the telegraph, telephone, electric-light, and electric- 
manufacturing companies of the American metropolis. 
The president of the club. Colonel A. B. Chandler, 
presided, and acted the part of toast-master in a unique 
and original way, his speech being punctuated by pre- 
arranged illustrative incidents, which, though they 
delighted those present, almost brought a blush of 
embarrassment to the modest cheek of Edison. 

"I desire," said Colonel Chandler, "to call attention 
to the most noteworthy achievements of this great 
old telegrapher. First I shall mention the quadru- 
plex transmitter." 

An instrument which had been concealed in a comer 
of the room suddenly began to "dot" and "dash" in 
a highly excitable manner, the orchestra commenced 
playing the air of "My grandfather's dock," and the 
three hundred guests sang : 

"When they tell their stories now of the way they used to send, 
And the record-breaking work they used to do; 
And the way, every day, they would roast the other end, 
We are sony that those happy days are through." 


Edison beamed with delight and even hummed the 
old melody a bit himself; but before he had time to 
express his thanks for the novelty of the idea, Colonel 
Chandler said: ''I think that the telephone ^ould be 
mentioned next." This was the signal for the ringing 
of a dozen 'phone bells, a chorus of '^Helios," and the 
singing of a verse of "Hello, my baby!" After that 
the phonograph was mentioned, and from the huge 
funnel of a "talking-machine" came the martial strains 
of "The Stars and Stripes Forever." The last note 
had scarcely died away when Colonel Chandler said: 
"But the greatest of all, perhaps, was electric lighting." 
Members of the club who knew their cues touched va- 
rious buttons, and every light in the room winked out — 
all save the wax candles on the tables. And in the semi- 
darkness the excited guests sang this parody of a popular 

"It was just like this in the olden days, 
Which have passed beyond recall; 
In the rare old, fair old golden days 
It was just like this, that's all: 

Then we studied hard by the candle-light, 

With our visions of future gold; 
And some have realized all right 

Since the days of old.'' 

Edison was called upon for a speech, but with his 
usual modesty he declined, though he bowed his thanks 
with a smile that was brighter even than one of his own 
electric lights. 

Before closing this chapter mention should be made 
of another dinner which was given to Edison also 
during that year which saw the twenty-fifth anni- 
versary of his invention of the incandescent electric- 


light system. It was of the simplest kind, and, there- 
fore, one which, perhaps, appealed more to Edison and 
pleased him better than a more gorgeous banquet would 
have done. It was given in his honor by the General 
Electric Outing Club, and the members hit upon the 
altogether delightful plan of holding the dinner almost 
on the very spot which had seen the inventing and per- 
fecting of so many Edison wonders — Menlo Park. 

It was a Saturday — Jime 14 — and the inventor 
joined his entertainers about four o'clock in the after- 
noon, arriving at the Park in his automobile. After 
shaking hands with every one, Edison said he would 
like to have a look round — to renew his acquaintance 
with those well-remembered spots to which he had 
been so long a stranger. The buildings in which he 
had labored so many years are still standing, includ- 
ing the very room in which the first commercially 
successful incandescent electric lamps were manufac- 
tured — a tiny room providing accommodation for 
barely a dozen men. As Edison walked gjbout the 
grounds with various «nembers of the club he talked 
of his early struggles, of the long nights he had spent 
endeavoring to solve some diflScult problem, of the 
stem fights he had had with Nature to compel her to 
yield the secrets she so jealously guarded, and of the 
final triumph of the carbon telephone transmitter and 
the carbon filament for the electric lamp. He recalled 
the fact that it was many years since he had visited 
his old haimts, and he declared with a smile of unusual 
sweetness that he was glad to return in such good com- 
pany and on the quarter-century anniversary of his most 
important invention. 

Then he went into the old workshops, and for some 
moments stood there thoughtfully, saying nothing, 
but gazing with interest on the veiy benches where he 


had frequently labored for sixty hours at a stretch. 
The men who were his hosts remained outside during 
these moments devoted to "looking backward," and 
were themselves silent as they recalled the impressive 
fact that the "Wizard" was revisiting places which had 
seen the birth of innimierable wonders evolved from his 
own brain. 

Every part of the grounds was visited, and when 
the tour of inspection was completed Edison, who 
had been a little grave, was his own cheerful self again 
and chatted and joked with his friends in his old famil- 
iar way. The meal was ready at six o'clock. It was 
a lovely evening, and a noble banqueting-hall was 
formed by giant trees, green grass, and a cloudless 
sky. A great log was relegated to Edison as the seat 
of honor. He took it modestly and was immediately 
helped to a leg of cold roast chicken. This he held in 
one hand, and a piece of bread in the other, and it was a 
pleasant sight, declared the members, to see the great 
inventor straddling the log, takmg alternate bites at 
the browned leg and the bit of bread while relating 
stories of his early days. All his stories were not 
hxmiorous, though a great number were. He told the 
younger members how he had to struggle and "hustle" 
before he received any encouragement or recognition, 
but he did not let this cast him down or lessen his 
determination to "get there" some day. And his 
advice to them, given in a semi-serious voice, was to go 
ahead and never give up. A path, he said, sanely laid 
out and honorably followed, always led somewhere — 
usually to success if not great riches. Some one re- 
ferred to the big dinner which had been given to Edison 
in New York a few days previously, and added in tones 
which clearly indicated a desire to be contradicted: 
"I suppose you liked that better than this?" And 


Edison replied, as every one hoped he would reply, 
by saying in a very earnest way: "No, sir, I had a 
good deal rather be here. I get tired of big banquets 
and seldom attend them if I can help, but a picnic 
like this — well, that's the way I would dine every 
day if I had my choice. The outdoor air whets the 
appetite and helps digestion. I'm glad to be here." 

It was not until the sim had set and twilight had 
fallen that Edison bade his hosts good-by, and, enter- 
ing his car, finally took his departure bom the Park 
which his genius had made famous, and where he had 
so long reigned as "Wizard." 

Should the reader ever be in the vicinity of New 
Jersey he might spend a less interesting hour than 
visiting Menlo Park. He will, it is true, find an air 
of melancholy brooding over the once famous village 
— as though the very atmosphere were moinning 
some dead and gone glory — but there is still much 
remaining which will repay him for the trip. Two 
furlongs from the railroad he will see an old, dilapi- 
dated and disused trolley-car at which he may possibly 
cast a contemptuous glance should he be ignorant of 
the fact that it is the first car of the kind which ever 
ran in America, and, in fact, the world. How many 
famous people it carried in the heyday of its youth 
who can say? Certainly few noted personages — and 
some who were not noted — who visited Edison in 
those "Wizard" days, failed to take a ride in the won- 
derful electric trolley-car before bringing their tour of 
inspection to a close. That car is not occupied now, 
at least during the day, though on cold nights, or when 
a storm rages, an old cow occasionally wanders in and 
takes her repose where the giants of the scientific world 
once stood. When Edison had built this car he laid 
down three miles of rails, and the miniature electric 


trolley system attracted thousands of visitors to Menlo 
Park. "From this little line," says a writer, "sprang 
the huge network of trolleys which covers 'country and 
city, in which himdreds of millions of dollars are in- 
vested, and on which billions of passengers are carried 
yearly." At Menlo Park you may still see some of the 
trolley wires, but they hang with a melancholy sag, for 
it is many years since they were "alive." The rails 
were torn up soon after Edison removed to Orange. 

Having inspected the trolley-car you will probably 
notice a two-story building which is in a good state 
of repair. Inhabitants of Menlo Park take pride in 
informing you that it is Edison's first experimental 
laboratory, and that in this building were invented 
and perfected the incandescent electric-light system, 
the phonograph, the carbon telephone, and many 
other important inventions. The building is inhabited 
— the lower story by a volunteer fire-brigade and 
the upper by an amateur theatrical company. Then 
there is a little brick building which, twenty-five years 
ago, was the "main ofl&ce," and where Edison used 
occasionally to attend to his correspondence. An old 
man lives there now — or did until quite recently — 
who was popularly regarded as a hermit, and who, 
when questioned by interested visitors, would disclaim 
any knowledge of his distinguished landlord. And this, 
perhaps, is scarcely to be wondered at seeing that he 
pays no rent. 

Behind the old laboratory is the machine shop built 
by Edison, and which has seen the creation of those 
electrical wonders which shed a glory on the name of 
Menlo Park. Now that machine shop stands vacant 
and deserted and crumbling into decay. There are, 
however, heavy brick foundations remaining in good 
preservation whereon Edison built his first dynamos — 


gigantic affairs weighing nearly thirty tons, and which 
were the astonishment of the world. These dynamos 
are no longer in existence — they performed their 
duties, and years ago were reduced to scrap-iron and 
sold to the junk shop. 

Though it is almost twenty-five years since Edison 
removed his laboratory from Menlo Park, his name is 
still mentioned with pride by the villagers. He was 
known to every one, and would chat and crack jokes 
with the humblest just as readily then as he does to- 
day. The stranger to Menlo Park hears many anec- 
dotes about how the inventor would remain days and 
nights at his work without sleep and with very little 
food, alid how he showed irritation only when disturbed 
while engaged in solving some problem which had 
defied every one else. Stories of his good-heartedness 
and geniality are numerous, and there are few who have 
not some incident to relate to the credit of the inventor. 
Meet the "oldest inhabitant'* and ask him if he knew 
Edison, and he wiQ answer: "What, Tom Edison? 
Well, I should say. Me and him was like brothers. 
Always affable he was, and very free with his money. 
Yes, he's got on since he lived here, and I guess he's 
as well known the other side of the world as he is in 
Menlo Park. That talking-machine was a wonderful 
thing, and made a great name for him. I remember the 
folks coming from New York to see the first electric 
lamps, and how astonished they were. But we weren't, 
for there was nothing, we thought, that Tom Edison 
couldn't do. He was a wonder, sure!" 

Many people to this day suppose that Edison still 
resides in Menlo Park, and the post-office there is 
constantly forwarding letters to the inventor which 
have been addressed to the once famous locality 
under the impression that the "Wizard" is stiQ its 


chiefest inhabitant. It was, indeed, a bad day for 
Menlo Park when Edison removed his laboratory to 
Orange, and the village never recovered from the shock. 
When the inventor left, all the glamour and mystery 
which had made the litde place famous the world over 
faded away and the town rapidly began to decline in 
popular favor. Each year saw some decrease in its 
population until to-day it is little better than a deserted 
viUage. The railroad trains drop very few passengers 
now at Menlo Park, and these are for the most part 
pilgrims anxious to visit the place where Edison in- 
vented those innumerable devices which have made his 
name a household word. And after visiting the labora- 
tory they seldom fail to view the Edison homestead 
a few hundred feet dists^t, and which was occupied fot 
some years after the inventor left Menlo Park by his 
daughter, who now lives in Cermany. The property 
still belongs to Edison, but is now tenanted by an Ital- 
ian family who live there on the same terms as the 
old hermit, — rent free. 



Edison has not made many visits to Europe, and 
gives as his reason that he cannot stand all the kind- 
nesses which are showered upon him. But he has 
stated on more than one occasion that he contemplates 
a return visit in the near future, when he hopes to meet 
many of those interesting people who have paid his 
laboratory visits at various times. Edison's most 
noted trip to Europe was in 1889, when he went across 
especially to visit the Paris Exposition at which he was 
so prolific an exhibitor. His preparations for the dis- 
play of his inventions were of a very elaborate nature, 
and a small army of men were engaged for months pre- 
paring the various exhibits. No fewer than three 
hundred immense cases of goods were shipped to 
Paris, the freight alone costing $2500, while Uie total 
expenses of the Edison exhibition reached $75,000. 
One-third of the space allowed the United States in 
the Machinery Temple was allotted to him, and 
without doubt his exhibit was the sensation of the 

Edison did not visit Paris xmtil long after the Ex- 
position was open to the public, but on the 27th of 
April the following cable appeared m the New York 
papers: "President Sadi-Camot has been profuse in 
courtesies and attentions to Thomas Alva Edison, the 
American inventor, since the latter's arrival in Paris 



for the purpose of superintending the establishment of 
his exhibit of electrical apparatus on the Champs de 
Mars. Mr. Edison has beea received at the official 
residence with the utmost cordiality by the President, 
and has had several interviews with him, in which 
M. Camot has manifested the greatest interest in the 
inventor's work." 

It so happened that a New York Evening Sun 
reporter had been in communication with Edison's 
secretary at his Orange laboratory the day before, and 
his surprise when the item met his eye was great. As 
the announcement was not confined to one paper, but 
had appeared in nearly all the morning papers, it was 
obvious that there was a mistake somewhere. Doubt- 
less the French President had been imposed upon. 
The reporter, who was anxious that his paper should 
maintain its reputation for correct news, immediately 
travelled down to Orange for the purpose of finding out 
whether Edison had secretly invented some method of 
crossing the Atlantic during the night and had really 
arrived in Paris, or whether he himself had beei^'de- 
ceived in what he had been told regarding the inventor 
the day before. The minuteness of the despatches in 
describing the manner in which M. Camot was frater- 
nizing with the great American inventor on the Champs 
de Mars made them appear as truth personified. The 
following amusing description of the reporter's "search 
after facts" appeared in a late edition of his paper : 

"The newspaper man carried a pocketful of the 
strange despatches down to Orange, in order to show 
Edison's private secretary how irreligiously the latter 
had imposed on the reporter's credulity when he de- 
clared yesterday that Mr. Edison was upstairs in his 
workshop undergoing a process of incubation on an- 
other electrical discovery. 


"*Is Mr. Edison in?' the reporter inquired of the 
office boy, very authoritatively. 

"*He has just gone tO'New York with his private 
secretary/ the boy replied. 

"*He is in this country, then, not in Europe — not 
in Paris?' 

"The boy appeared dazed. He looked aroimd 
him once or twice as though about to oJl for assist- 
ance, when the reporter assured him that everything 
was all right. 

" *Has Mr. Edison a representative at hand ?' 

"Mr. Bachelor was summoned. The reporter pro- 
duced the despatches. Mr. Bachelor hastily scanned 
one of them and smiled. 

"'Well, all that I have got to say is that he was 
here this morning. If he is now in Paris he must 
have gone by the air-line.' 

"Mr. Bachelor smiled again as he spoke, and called 
the attention of several in the office to the articles. 
All laughed heartily. 

"Mr. Bachelor stated that Mr. Edison was in the 
city for the day, and would return to Orange that 
night. He had no idea how it was that such insane 
despatches had been cabled from abroad, but thought 
that some one had been impersonating Mr. Edison 
in the French capital and had imposed himself upon 
the President," 

The sequel to this story never appeared. Un- 
doubtedly some one had endeavored to pass himself 
off as Edison, but as soon as it became known that 
the inventor had not left Orange, the French papers 
made a joke of the matter and no action was taken. 
The impostor, whoever he was, did not go to the extent 
of "touching" the President for a loan, and therefore 
his object in passing himself off as some one else was 


not very clear. Edison laughed when he heard the 
stories, but did not consider it worth while to make 
inquiries regarding them when he did reach Paris. He 
thought the President might feel sore on the subject, 

A brief description of Edison's exhibit at the Paris 
Exposition of 1889 may not be without interest, for 
many readers possibly did not see it, while those who 
had that good fortune will not be averse to recalling the 
wonders of the great electrical display. The exhibits 
of Edison were classed as follows: Telegraphic, tele- 
phonic, phonographic, physical electric lighting, under- 
groimd conductors, the manufacture of incandescent 
lamps, electric motors, and the magnetic separation and 
analysis of metals. 

The most striking feature of the display was a monster 
incandescent lamp, 40 feet high and mounted on a 
pedestal 20 feet square. The American flag was 
shown in red, white, and blue lamps on one side, the 
French escutcheon on the other, while in front the flags 
of the two republics with the name "Edison" above, 
and the date, "1889," below, appeared; all these 
features were made of opalescent electric lamps. 
Twelve steps of vari-colored lamps led to the top of the 
pedestal, where there was a niche in which was placed 
a bust of the inventor surrounded by tiny lamps. The 
pedestal was surmounted by a perfect model of the 
standard Edison lamp and socket magnified 20,000 
times. In other words, the great lamp was composed 
of 20,000 perfect i6-c.p. lamps which, although not lit, 
acted as a medium through which the light of the im- 
mense carbon might shine. 

Inside the base was the switchboard, where an 
operator was stationed, who could produce varied 
and dazzling effects by the quick manipulation of the 
switches. The different devices were independent of 


the others, but could be lighted in rapid succession, 
and the crowd was never tired of watching the bottom 
light run up the base, step by step, and illumine the 
various designs irntU it reached the carbon of the great 
lamp above. 

In front of this moniunent were arranged tables 
on which were set out working models of many of 
Edison's most famous inventions, including the duplex 
and quadruplex telegraphs, the phonoplex, stock 
telegraph, printing telegraph, automatic telegraph 
and perforator, and the harmonic telegraph. There 
were also shown in other parts of the Machinery Hall 
voltmeters and indicators, galvanometers, the pyro- 
magnetic motor and generator, the vote recorder, the 
water-bridge, etheroscope, odoroscope, electric pen, 
vocal engine, megaphone, and many other wonderful 
inventions. In the room containing these models an 
operator sat at a type-setting and distributing machine, 
setting up matter from a phonograph, which was after- 
wards printed by a press run by an electric motor. 

Besides all these interesting things there were shown 
the Edison system of imderground conductors, a sec- 
tional view of Edison tubes laid in place and connected, 
comprising feeders, mains, taps, junction and dis- 
tributing boxes — in fact the whole paraphernalia 
necessary to the correct working of a genuine electrical 
central station. The methods adopted in the manu- 
facturing of the tubes were also shown. The d)mamo 
plant installed comprised a complete three-wire system 
run from 500-light machines; also a No. 56 dynamo 
having a capacity of 2500 lights, and a 1200-volt 
dynamo running the 100 big lamps surrounding the en- 
tire exhibit. The working of the Edison meter system 
was also exhibited, together with a magnetic ore sepa- 
rator in operation, showing the crushing of the quartz 


and the separation of the ore from the silicates by means 
of powerful magnets. A glass case which attracted 
universal attention was one containing, besides speci- 
mens of every incandescent electric lamp made, a 
wonderful collection of bamboos and fibres, used iq 
the manufacture of the filaments. 

But more popular even than the electrical display 
was the "Phonographic Temple," where dozens of 
machines speaking every European language were 
a constant source of delight and astonishment to the 
thousands who crowded aroimd them, all anxious to 
hear their own native tongues. There was a small 
pavilion where visitors could make records for them- 
selves, and afterwards experience the novelty of hearing 
their own voices. It must be remembered that there 
were thousands who had never heard a phonograph 
before, and so some idea can be obtained of the mterest 
which this Phonographic Temple created. The mech- 
anism of the machine was explained by operators who 
spoke in several languages, and, for the benefit of those 
who desired to know more of the wonderful "talking- 
machine" than that to be obtained from a brief de- 
scription, lectures were delivered by various scientific 
experts at different hours of the day and night. 

It is little to be wondered at, therefore, if after 
exhibiting so many wonders, Edison's arrival in the 
French capital created excitement. He was more 
popular, more mobbed, more rim aftor than all the 
royal visitors put together. And his striking per- 
sonality pleased the crowds, who constantly broke 
into cheering when it was known that he was paying 
the Exposition a visit and his form was recognized. 
Edison was accompanied by his wife, and Miss Marion 
Edison, the inventor's eldest daughter. Every scientific 
society in the capital gave a dinner in honor of the 


celebrated inventor, and the Municipality of Paris 
presented him with a banquet which was attended by 
every notable person in the city. The Figaro gave him 
a great dinner at which nearly all the theatrical artistes 
and litterateurs in France were in attendance. In 
his speech, the editor said: ^* Never can a suflBcient 
tribute of honor be paid to him who, by the telephone, 
transports speech from pole to pole ; who, by the phono- 
graph, repeats to our ears the blessed words of dear 
dead ones, giving them to us with their charm of in- 
tonation; who has illuminated the world with a new and 
dazzling light. He has merited well of all countries. '^ 

Some years previous to this, however, the Figaro 
came out with a somewhat remarkable description of 
Edison and one of his inventions, and in the course of 
a long and startling article it solemnly declared that 
Edison did not "belong to himself.** "He is the 
property," so the writer said, "of the telegraph com- 
pany, which lodges him in New York at a superb hotel, 
keeps him on a luxmrious footing, and pays him a 
formidable salary, so as to be the one to know of and 
profit by his discoveries. The company has, in the 
laboratory of Edison, men in its employ who do not 
leave him for a moment, at the table, on the street, 
in the workshop. So that this wretched man, watched 
as never was a malefactor, cannot give a second's 
thought to his personal affairs without one of his guards 
saying, *Mr. Edison, of what are you thinking?'" 

This interesting description was copied into a good 
many American papers, and created much fun among 
Edison's associates and those acquainted with him. 
A few days after the translation appeared, a Cin- 
cinnati paper came out with the following account of 
the "Wizard," which in tinn was copied in several 
French journals. Its sarcasm, however, was probably 


lost on those readers who had read and digested the 
Figaro article. 

''Edison, the phonograph man, is wretched unless 
he invents half a dozen things every day. He does it 
just for amusement when regular business is not press- 
ing. The other day he went out for a little stroll, and 
before he had gone a square he thought out a plan for 
walking on one leg so as to rest the other. 

"He hailed a milk wagon and told the driver of a 
little invention that had popped through his head just 
that moment for delivering milk without getting out 
of the wagon or even stopping his horses. A simple 
force pump, with hose attached, worked by the foot, 
would do the business. Milkmen who dislike to halt 
for anything in their mad career, because it prevents 
them running over as many children as they might 
otherwise do, would appreciate this improvement. 
Edison isn't sure but that sausage and sauerkraut 
could be delivered in the same way. 

"He then stepped into a hotel office, and, observing 
the humiliation which guests encounter in seeking 
to obtain information from the high-toned clerk, he 
sat down in the reading-room, and in five minutes 
had invented a hotel clerk to work by machinery, 
warranted to stand behind the counter any length 
of time desired, and answer all questions with prompt- 
ness, correctness, and suavity — diamond pin and hair 
parted in the middle, if desired. 

"Lounging into the billiard-room he was struck 
with the endless amount of cushions to each table. 
Quick as lightning he thought of a better and more 
economical plan — cushion the balls. He immediately 
pulled out a postal card and wrote to Washington 
applying for a patent. 

"When Edison started to go out he had to pass the 


barber shop of the hotel, and as he did so he sighed 
to think that, with all his genius and creative imagina- 
tion, he could never hope to equal the knight of the 
razor as a talking-machine. This saddened him, so 
he went home and invented no more that day." 

But to return to Paris. The French Society of 
Civil Engineers gave a dinner for Edison on the first 
landing of the Eiffel Tower. The builder of the great 
structure was in the chair, and at the close of the many 
speeches delivered in honor of the distinguished guest, 
M. Eiffel suggested that coffee should be taken in his 
private room on the highest landing of the tower, to 
which the public was not admitted. Elevators took the 
guests to the room, which was large and commodious, 
easily accommodating the seventy-five gentlemen who 
made up the party. Among the guests was M. Gounod, 
who sang and played for Edison's especial benefit, 
and afterwards composed a piece of music which he 
sent as an autograph to Mrs. Edison, who had ex- 
pressed a desire for the famous composer's signatiure. 
M. Eiffel, not to be outdone, wrote on a slip of paper, 
"Notre belle joum^e serait complete si nous avions en 
le plaisir d'avoir avec nous Madame et Mademoiselle 
Marion Edison," and sent it with his compliments. 

Before he left Paris a gold medal was struck in honor 
of the inventor, and Edison acknowledged the kindnesses 
which had been showered upon him by drawing a check 
to be given to the poor. Edison had thought that pos- 
sibly he might have received some valuable suggestions 
in electricity while abroad, but he was disappointed. 
Apparently there was nothing any one else could teach 
him in that line. He was interested, and somewhat 
amused, to discover that scientific men abroad were 
greatly surprised that he was not more of a scientist 
in the higher sense of the phrase. They could not 


understand that he was between the scientific man and 
the public, as it were. However, their admiration for 
him was none the less. 

On his return Edison thus humorously described 
his experiences in Paris: '^ Dinners, dinners, dinners, 
all the time," he said. ^'But in spite of them all they 
did not get me to speak. Once I got Chauncey Dq)ew 
to make a speech for me, and I got Reid, our Minister 
there, to make three or foiu:. I could never get used to 
so many dinners. At noon I would sit down to what 
they called dSjeuner. That would last until nearly 
three o'clock, and a few hours later would come a big 
dinner. It was terrible. I looked down from the 
Eiffel Tower on the biggest dinner I ever saw, given 
to the mayors of France by the Mimicipality of Paris. 
I saw 8900 people eating at one time. I ate one 
American dinner while abroad, given by 'Buffalo 
Bill.' Depew, Reid, John Hoey, and lots of other 
Americans were invited. We had, among other things 
American, an immense pie, Boston baked beans, and 
peanuts. John Hoey had brought some watermelons, 
which we ate. Now I feel I must starve for a few 
months in order to get straight again after all those 
dinners. I wonder they didn't kill me." 

From Paris Edison visited other Eiuropean cities, 
where he was accorded an equally enthusiastic recep- 
tion. At Heidelberg the German Association of 
Advanced Scientists gave a dinner in his honor at 
which twelve hundred guests sat down. The Grand 
Duke of Baden was there with all his guards, and 
delivered an address through the phonograph in Ger- 
man. He was gifted with a powerful voice, and the 
phonograph repeated his words in such dear and 
thrilling tones that the speech was heard and under- 
stood by hundreds of people who were standing out- 


side. In Heidelberg the inhabitants go to bed at 
ID o'clock as a rule, but on that occasion the " Advanced 
Scientists" were still making merry at 3 A.M. 

While in Italy Edison was ffited with equal enthu- 
siasm, and he received letters of commendation from 
King Humbert and Queen Margherita for his phono- 
graph, which Chevalier Capello had exhibited before 
them. It was on this occasion that the report was 
circulated that Edison had been made a count by 
the Italian monarch. So persistent was this rumor, 
and so eagerly was it believed in America, that when 
Edison returned to his native country he and his wife 
were addressed as "Count and Countess Edison," 
to their amusement and embarrassment. The in- 
ventor said that the story was first circulated by a 
French reporter, who took the personal letters of the 
King and Queen to mean a title at the very least. 

Edison then crossed over to England and paid a 
brief visit to London, where he was the recipient of 
a very hearty welcome. The Lord Mayor entertained 
him at the Mansion House, and various dinners were 
given in his honor. One of the British institutions 
which he tried was the beer, and it didn't agree with 
him at all. He afterwards declared that it sank to 
the bottom of one's stomach and there stayed for an 
indefinite period. "It must be a good thing to ballast 
ships with," he said on one occasion with a smile. 

One of the things in London that surprised Edison 
was the obvious fact that the Metropolitan and Dis- 
trict railway trains were not driven by electricity. 
"Nothing could be simpler," he protested, "than to 
substitute electricity for steam." He had offered 
to do it long ago, and stated that if he got the order 
then he could carry it out "almost offhand." And 
he gave to a reporter a glowing picture of what the 


underground would be without its steam and its choking 
sulphur fumes. ''The underground atmosphere/' said 
Edison, ''must be bad for the lungs. With an electric 
motive force there would be no more smoke. And the 
motion of the trains would keep the air of the tunnels 
pure. The companies might also light them with 
electric lights throughout." Those remarks were 
made by Edison nearly twenty years ago. How long 
was it before London took the advice of the man who 
knew what he was talking about? 



Edison's home life is an exceptionally happy one. 
He lives in a beautiful house called "Glenmont," 
in Llewellyn Park, at the foot of the Orange Mountain, 
with his wife and children. This residence Edison 
purchased soon after his second marriage in 1886, 
though at the time he scarcely had the intention of 
occupying quite so large a house. It happened, how- 
ever, that " Glenmont," which had been built at a cost 
of an immense sum of money, as well as an expenditure 
of much artistic e£fort, was placed on sale to satisfy 
the creditors of the absconding owner, and the inventor 
bought the place outright — house, furniture, library, 
artistic treasures, which it had taken ten years to 
collect, thirteen acres of park and garden, an acre of 
glass houses, several horses and cows, and a well- 
filled poultry run. At the time Edison, in showing 
his newly purchased paradise to a friend, said, ^'It's 
a great deal too nice for me, but — well, it isn't half 
nice enough for the little wife here," placing his hand 
gently on the arm of the beautiful girl who stood beside 

The house — a handsome structure of brick and 
wood — belongs to the Queen Anne period of archi- 
tecture, and was built with a view to comfort as well 
as elegance. The porch, covered with purple wistaria 
in the spring, is massive in its proportions and hos- 



pitable in appearance. Inside is the comfort one 
finds in an old English country house. The square 
hall is furnished with oak tables, a finely designed 
open fireplace, where in winter a log fire is always 
burning, and cosey window seats generous with soft 
cushions. Japanese jars filled with flowers from 
hothouse and garden occupy every comer, and the 
air is laden with the odor of blossoms. At night the 
hall is illuminated by electric lights cunningly con- 
cealed, which produce a soft glow infinitely preferable 
to the brilliance of the more usual cluster of incan- 
descent lamps. On the east wall hangs the original 
of Andersen's famous "Le matin aprfes le baL" 

To the right of the hall is the library, full of nooks 
and comers, where readers may pass the hours in 
quietude with their favorite authors. One entire 
side of the room is taken up by an immense fireplace, 
furnished with old-fashioned andirons, while the logs 
are piled high, ready for the cold weather or a chilly 
evening. Though the room is lighted by a double 
window there is a certain sombreness about the apart- 
ment, partly due to the outside vegetation, and partly 
to a third window of stained glass through which the 
light filters in a rather solemn and religious way. 
Dante's head glows from this window, which was 
designed by Edison, who is a great admirer of the 
Italian author's writings. A bronze bust of Edison 
stands on one of the small tables, and a bronze eques- 
trian group between the two windows. The room 
is distinctly a library — plain and severe — and its 
principal furnishing consists of books. You will not 
find a great number of scientific works here, for they 
are kept down at the laboratory, but those dealing 
with modem thought are numerous. The works of 
the standard authors of England, America, and France 


occupy the shelves of the home library, for the inventor 
likes to vary his reading at times by a masterpiece of 
Dumas or Scott or Hawthorne. 

Whenever his wife recommends him a book, and 
Edison is in the humor for reading an tmscientific 
work, he will commence it right away and not lay the 
volume down until it is finished. He is not a very 
quick reader, but absorbs what he reads very thor- 
oughly. For Dumas's works he has a very great 
admiration, and he thinks ''The Count of Monte 
Cristo" probably the finest romance that was ever 
penned. He read it fifteen years ago and under some- 
what interesting circumstances. One evening, on 
retmning from the laboratory, his mind busy with 
some problem which defied solution, the inventor 
entered his library, closed the doors, and walked up 
and down for hours trying to solve the difficulty. 
Finally Mrs. Edison entered the room, and with a desire 
to divert her husband's thoughts she picked up the 
first book that came to her hand and inquired of the 
inventor, "Have you read this?" He stopped in 
his walk and looked at the title. It was "The Count 
of Monte Cristo." Opening the book a moment, 
Edison answered, "No, I never have. Is it good?" 
Mrs. Edison declared that it was a great work, and 
she was sure he would enjoy it. " All right," he replied, 
"I guess I'll start right away." He settled himself 
comfortably, and a moment later was absorbed in 
the fascinating story. He read on and on and through 
the night and never laid the book aside until the sun 
shone through the window. Then he took his hat 
and went down to the laboratory, and after many 
hours solved the difficulty which had been worrying 
him. When he returned home he declared that "The 
Coimt of Monte Cristo" was a fine fellow, and had 


certainly aided him in discovering a solution to a very 
difficult problem. After that he always took Mrs. 
Edison's advice with regard to fiction. 

One of Edison's favorite authors is Gaboriau^ 
and he was very sorry when that king of detective-story 
writers died. What pleased Edison with regard to 
this writer was the fact that he didn't waste any time 
getting down to business. The story was commenced 
at once, there were no irritating preliminaries, you 
became absorbed in a very intricate plot from the 
first page. Another favorite is Edgar Allan Poe, and 
he derived considerable pleasure from reading "The 
Murders in the Rue Morgue" and " Amheim." Among 
less exciting writers he has a fondness for Ruskin 
and Dickens. Flammarion and Jules Verne he has 
read over and over again. 

But to return to "Glenmont." Mrs. Edison's 
drawing-room, on the side of the hall opposite to the 
library, is a beautiful and spacious apartment with an 
archway in the centre supported by onyx pillars. 
The hangings are crimson and the furniture carved 
rosewood. A grand piano stands at one comer, and 
near it is a comfortable easy-chair where Edison very 
often sits while his wife plays to him from his favorite 
composer — Beethoven. No music appeals to Edison 
like that of Beethoven, and the very name of the com- 
poser will bring into his eyes an expression very much 
resembling adoration. Edison at one time played the 
violin himself, but put it aside when he found it was 
occupying rather more of his time than he could very 
well spare. He also sang, and had a good voice, but 
experimenting in acoustics affected his larynx and he 
soon gave up all attempts in vocal music. He still 
finds, however, some of his greatest happiness in listen- 
ing to the performance of other musicians. 






The dining room, on the same floor, is simply and 
severely furnished ; the sideboard, occupying a recess 
facing the window, displays one or two pieces of silver 
only. Eklison probably spends less time in this room 
than any other in the house, for he is not fond of re- 
maining long at his meals. 

The most interesting room in the house is on the 
second floor, and generally known as the "den." It 
is a big room, with a great window at one end look- 
ing over the Jersey Hills. There are interesting por- 
traits on the walls — portraits of Edison when he was 
a little fellow of four in a plaid dress, and when he 
was a ne\irsboy on the Grand Trunk. And at one 
end of the room a small alcove is devoted to photo- 
graphs of the inventor taken at different ages — a 
sacred spot which is guarded jealously by Mrs. Edison. 
There are two special portraits, one showing the in- 
ventor in his favorite hoUand "over-alls," which is 
his wife's favorite portrait, and the other taken when 
a young man of twenty-four or so, at the time when 
he was, as he says, a "hustler" of the most hustling 
kind. This photograph is the favorite one of the 
inventor himself. 

Then there is a businesslike-looking roll-top desk 
where Edison sits occasionally and replies to his pri- 
vate correspondence — where he writes to his daugh- 
ter Madelyn, at Bryn Mawr College, or to a particular 
friend. On his desk are portraits of his wife and his 
children — a particularly charming one of his daughter 
with her chin on her hand and her father's serious 
expression in her eyes. Above the desk are two inter- 
esting items of Edison's early days : a copy of the paper 
he published on the train and a bill for ten dollars 
signed by Edison about the same period of his life. 
There is also a "tin-type" of the inventor, which is 


some forty-eight years old, and shows the boy in a 
jersey and cap, and wearing that engaging, frank smile 
which always attracted strangers. 

In another comer of the room, beneath a strong 
electric lamp, is a comfortable easy-chair furnished 
with a reading-desk on which are a couple of books. 
This is where Edison invariably sits after dinner and 
smokes a cigar or a couple of cigars and — thinks. 
One of the books is a treatise on chemistry, while the 
other is an ordinary exercise book about half an inch 
thick and contains a hundred or more pencil drawings 
made by the inventor himself. It is one of Edison's 
note-books, though not strictly speaking a ''notion" 
book. The little volume contains diagrams of inven- 
tions already conceived, and some of them are very 
carefully drawn. Seldom does an evening pass with- 
out Mr. Edison contributing some drawing to his note- 
book, for, as a rule, his pencil is as active as his brain. 
He loves to explain his meaning with a pencil illustra- 
tion, and when he is doing this for a visitor it always 
amuses him to hear the inevitable request, "Oh, Mr. 
Edison, would you mind signing this and putting the 
date?" There must be a great number of these 
interesting autographs in existence. 

In this room is a large glass case containing Edison's 
collection of medals and decorations. Few men have 
had more honors of the kind showered upon them during 
their lives ; and though Edison treasures them a good 
deal for what they represent, he places little value on the 
medals themselves. This was shown a few years ago 
when some one called and asked the inventor if he 
would allow his decorations and medals to be put on 
exhibition. Edison had no objection, if any one were 
sufficiently interested in them — which he very much 
doubted. The case was produced, but Edison had 


lost the key. It was not to be found, so the box was 
forcibly opened. Then a greater diflSculty still pre- 
sented itself. The visitor wished for some descrip- 
tion of the different medals, and wanted to know for 
what each particular trinket had been awarded. And 
Edison couldn't help him I He had totally forgotten 
the circumstances under which he had received at least 
half his honors, and no effort on his part could recall 
the facts. So they were all put back in the case and, 
though they were subsequently shown, the exhibit 
was hardly as interesting as it might have been. 

But among the medals in the den are one or two 
tehich deserve a word. There is, for instance, the 
Albert Medal, which was presented to Edison by the 
Prince of Wales in honor of his father, the Prince 
Consort. With the medal is a series of letters, includ- 
ing one from the Prince, and one from Sir Julian 
Pauncefote, who took the medal to America. The 
latter is a document showing much grace of composi- 
tion and quite Chesterfieldian in style. The third 
communication is from Secretary of State Foster, and 
amused Edison not a little when he received it. The 
medal was entrusted to Mr. Foster for delivery, and 
after informing Edison of his charge and explaining 
how delighted he was to present the medal, he concludes 
by saying that Edison can have it ''by paying express 
charges " I 

There are also among these medals the three degrees 
of the Legion of Honor — Chevalier, Officeur, and 
Commander. The highest degree was conferred on 
the inventor during the Paris Exposition of 1889, 
when he paid his memorable visit to the French capital. 
At about the same time a cable was sent to the United 
States announcing that Edison had been created a count 
by the King of Italy. The democratic nation was 


flattered at the honor conferred upon their countryman, 
but of course hoped the inventor would refuse the 
title. The rumor was incorrect, and when Edison 
returned after his European toiur, the first thing the 
reporters asked was, whether he were really a count, 
and much to the disappointment of the interrogators 
he replied that he was not. "But," said Edison apolo- 
getically, as some of those present seemed rather hurt 
that he hadn't received a title, "I've come back deco- 
rated with the red ribbon of the Legion of Honor of 
France. I have been made Commander, the highest 
title they confer on a foreigner." Then, with a smile, 
he added: "When I first exhibited the old phono- 
graph over there, France made me a Chevalier of the 
Legion of Honor. At the time of the electrical ex- 
hibition they advanced me a grade, making me an 
Officeur. This summer they raised the ante again 
[Edison plays poker] and made me a Commander, 
I believe they call it. At all events, it's the highest 
decoration of the Legion of Honor. Over in France 
they think a great deal of these decorations. A great 
many privileges go with them. The Minister of 
Foreign Affairs gave me this one through Ambas- 
sador Reid, sending a very nice letter with it. At 
Mr. Reid's house they wanted to put the ribbon and 
cross aroimd my neck, but I would not have it there." 
The "very nice" letter to which Edison referred 
is kept in the case with the decorations and, trans- 
lated, is as follows: 

" Sir, — I have the honor of announcing that, upon 
my suggestion, the President of the Republic desires 
to confer upon you the Cross of a Commander of the 
National Order of the Legion of Honor. In awarding 
you to-day this high distinction, the Government of 


the Republic wishes to recognize the services, excep- 
tional in every sense of the word, which you have 
rendered to science by your marvellous inventions, 
all of which have been admired and envied by the 
visitors, French and foreign, to the Champs de Mars. 
We are happy in oflFering to you a souvenir of your 
visit to Paris and your participation in the national 
exhibition in which the great Republic of the United 
States has taken so brilliant a, place, thus proving 
again the indissoluble ties which attach it to France. 

"You, yourself. Sir, in becoming our visitor have 
endeavored to ally yourself with these sentiments of 
cordial sympathy. It is particularly agreeable to me 
in recognizing this fact, to assmre you of our appre- 
ciation of it. Accept, Sir, the assurance of my highest 


Many other decorations, medals, and interesting 
letters does the case contain, but they are seldom taken 
out unless a visitor expresses a special desire to see 
them. Mrs. Edison looks after them, keeps the trinkets 
in order, and is proud of them, but were it not for her 
care the probability is that they would have been lost 
or stolen long ago. 

Mrs. Edison's boudoir is a pretty and home-like 
room, furnished in light colors, contains plenty of 
books, and is always generously supplied with flowers. 
Many portraits hang upon the walls, prominent among 
them being those of her father and husband, and, of 
course, several photographs of her children taken at 
different periods of their lives. The windows command 
most magnificent views of the Orange Valley, and the 
room is so bright and cheerful that Mrs. Edison and 
her children spend a great deal of their time here. 


From this loom a door leads to Mrs. Edison's bed- 
room, another pretty apartment, containing many 
interesting pictures and photographs. There is a 
portrait of Edison at fourteen, another of Mrs. Edison 
at sixteen, and a very fine painting of the first Mrs. 
Edison. A door opens on to a roof garden, over which 
an awning is spread in summer and where many pleas- 
ant tea-parties are given. 

Of the other rooms in the house it is needless to 
speak, for all are characterized by the same good 
taste and simplicity, whether it is a guest-chamber 
or little Theodore's play-room. The grounds are 
extensive, beautifully kept, shady with well-grown 
elms and other trees, contain croquet and tennis lawns, 
five or six glass-houses, pasture for several Aldemey 
cows, and an extensive fowl-nm. Edison keeps horses, 
but has no great fondness for them, as he regards the 
^'friend of man" as a poor motor. As a matter of 
fact, both Mr. and Mrs. Edison are a little afraid of 
horses, each having been in one or two bad accidents. 
Several motors are kept at the Glenmont -garage, and 
Charles Edison, the inventor's seventeen-year-old son, 
is an expert chauffeur. All the family are keen auto- 
mobilists, and are by no means afraid of exceeding 
the speed limit, even Mrs. Edison herself delighting 
in covering the Jersey roads at thirty miles and more 
an hour. 

The present Mrs. Edison is the inventor's second 
wife, and still a young and very beautiful woman. She 
is the daughter of Lewis Miller, the founder and Presi- 
dent of the. Chautauqua Assembly, who died in 1899. 
Mr. Miller was himself an inventor of considerable 
rnote, his reaping, binding, mowing, and thrashing 
machines being known to every farmer. He was 
also the founder of a model Sunday School, a million- 


aire, and the father of ten sons. Mrs. Edison met 
the inventor in Akron, Ohio, the home of her father, 
and it is generally believed to have been a case of love 
at first sight. They were married within a year of 
the meeting. Mrs. Eklison takes considerable in- 
terest in her husband's work, and she has watched 
the development of many of his inventions with con- 
siderable pride. She frequently goes down to the 
laboratory and has even assisted at an occasional 
experiment, much to the inventor's amusetnent. Up 
to quite Recently Edison would have his lunch at the 
laboratory, and Mrs. Edison either sent the basket, 
which she herself prepared, by a special messenger, 
or took it herself in the automobile. Now she gen- 
erally calls for her absent-minded husband about 
1.30 and msists upon his accompanying her back to 
•the house, where the inventor enjo3rs a modest meal 
and afterwards smokes a cigar. He objected at first, 
but Mrs. Edison, who has a will, was finn, and finally 
he laughingly capitulated, and now takes his meak 
more regularly. 

Of this happy tmion there are three children — 
Madelyn, a very pretty girl of eighteen, who is shortly 
to graduate from Bryn Mawr; Charles, who is still 
at college; and Theodore, the pet of the family, who 
is not quite nine. The family life of this brilliant 
and simple man is an ideal one, and he has certainly 
reaped the reward of his labors in happiness and con- 
tentment, which are not always the lot of those who 



Many readers doubtless know Edison best from 
the portrait published twenty years ago which shows 
him listening to the phonograph. Although taken 
so long since, the inventor still resembles this photo- 
graph to a remarkable degree. He is older, of course, 
but his face wears that same youthful expression which 
will, without doubt, always be its chief characteristic, 
whatever age he may readi. He is of medium height,"" 
powerfully and compactly built, and, when at work in 
his laboratory, usually wears a well-worn coat, much 
stained with chemicals, a pair of trousers which have 
seen better da3rs, spotless linen, and an old-fashioned 
white string tie. His head is massive, the forehead 
high, and the deep-set gray eyes extraordinarily keen. 
Indeed, the latter are startlingly luminous, *and, when 
he is interested, light up his entire face. The nose is 
straight, the mouth tender and humorous. *He is some- 
what deaf in his right ear, and, through constantly 
placing his hand behind the left orifice in order to 
catch what is being said, the organ has been pressed 
slightly forward. 

Edison does not regard his deafness as an af&iction, 
and on more than one occasion he has declared that 
it has saved his listening to much nonsense which 
could only have resulted in the waste of a lot of valu- 
able time. His wonderful powers of concentration 






have been ascribed to this partial deafness, and cer- 
tainly it has enabled him to pursue his investigations 
undisturbed in the midst of hammerings, conversa- 
tion, and a hundred-and-one noises which might have 
distracted him had he possessed imimpaired hearing. 
If Edison does not look upon this deafness as a bless- 
ing in disguise, he at all events regards it with that 
cheerfulness which prevents it in any way detracting 
from his full enjoyment of life. People who know 
Edison well have declared that his deafness is morela 
.psycB oIogical jphenomenon than a physical condition, 
for he can very easily hear that wEch inVefesfs him 
while being perfectly oblivious to that which does not. 
Edison has always been a celebrity of especial interest 
to aurists, and many have called upon him firm in the 
belief that they could restore his hearing. One visited 
the Orange laboratory quite recently, and after ex- 
plaining a method which he declared would bring 
about a speedy cure, begged the inventor to submit 
himself to treatment*. Edison, however, declined, and 
being asked for a reason said, '' I am afraid you might 
succeed." And then, with his humorous smile, he 
added, "Supposing you did? Think of the lot of 
stuff I'd have to listen to that I don't want to hear! 
To be a little deaf has its advantages, and on the whole 
I prefer to let well enough alone." 

Apropos of his deafness a story is told illustrative 
of his ability to hear when least expected. A number 
of visitors had called at the laboratory, and though 
Edison, as usual, was extremely busy, he made them 
welcome, was polite and genial, and never expressed any 
irritability even when foolish questions were shouted 
at him in unnecessarily high-pitched keys. Every 
one had evidently been told that the inventor was 
very deaf and they adjusted their tones to suit a con- 



versation which might have been carried on at a dis- 
tance of a mile or so. Then the humorist of the party 
said to a companion in his ordinary voice, *'I guess 
he would hear if we asked him to take a drink." Edi- 
son smilingly tiuned and, looking the young man 
squarely in the eye, he said, "Yes, perhaps I should; 
but no, thank you, not to-day." 

Some one has described Edison as "thoroughly 
comfortable and imdeniably human." It is a queer 
form of description, and yet it suits the inventor ad- 
mirably. Those portraits or drawings which show 
him with head resting upon his hand, and a solemn, 
dreamy look in his eyes, are all wrong. Edison is 
the exact reverse of a dreamer, and always has been 
— he never gives himself time to dream, and his chief 
characteristics through life have been marvellous alert- 
ness, indomitable detersuAation, and mercunal^eij^^.., 
HTs eyes" lure more often laughing with suppressed 
humor than solemn with thought. When he was a young 
man, and no one knew him, he was shy in disposition 
and seldom spoke of himself or his doings. When 
he became famous he did not " grow out of proportion 
to himself," but was the same simple, unaffected, 
human being that he had always been. He has about 
as much conceit and self-esteem as there isaij^Jtt^one 
of his own electric globes, and the thing he tears most 
in life is a "swelled head." His kindliness is unfailing, 
and he never loses his temper. No man in the labora- 
tory has ever seen Edison "let himself go"; and 
though his eyes may take on the sternness of a Napo-- 
leon, his anger never expresses itself outwardly. One 
of his workmen declared to the writer that the thing 
that surprised him most about the "old man" (as he 
is called in all affection) was the way he kept his tem- 
per. "When he would lie down to take an hour's 


sleep," said this assistant, "after woricing, perhaps, 
on something for a couple of days or more, and, for 
some important reason, we had to wake him up, and 
nearly shake the life out of him in doing so, he never 
showed any irritability, but would merely tell lis to 
'go easy,' and not knock quite all the stuffing out of 
him." Probably if Edison had been bom with less 
patience he would not have been enabled to accom- 
plish so much, for temper uses up more energy than 
th^ most strenuous hard work. 
/Om of Edison's chief personal characteristics is a 
N^disregard for the oonventionalities of dress. From 
the days when he spoiled a new suit with a bottle of 
chemicals he has had rather a contempt for fine dothes. 
"He's the poorest man at dressing," said an a^ieved 
assistant on one occasion, "that ever lived, and doesn't 
care what he wears. He'll buy a suit of clothes and 
come into the laboratory with it just as it came from 
the store, and the first thing he does is to throw the 
coat in a dusty comer and sit down where some chemi- 
cals have been spilt." Not so long ago Edison always 
wore a long linen duster — a masculine "Mother 
Hubbard," as some admirer once called it — and a 
dilapidated straw hat, but within recent years he has 
discarded both these articles of dress, and, greatly 
to his wife's relief, appears somewhat better clothed. 
But still, as telegraph operators, who regard Edison 
as one of themselves, are proud to state, the inventor 
is no "dude." He still wears mighty plain clothes, 
but they are less noticeable for hard usage than for- 

In spite of his peculiar ideas regarding dress, how- 
ever, Edison has theories about correct clothing and 
its bearmg towards health which, coming from a think- 
ing man, may very well be considered. He never 


wears an overcoat, for the simple reason that it fails 
lamentably to keep out the cold. The wind gets up 
the sleeves, he declares, and between the folds, ren- 
dering the garment useless as a protector against the 
attacks of an American winter. Much better, he 
says, to turn one's attention to the imderclothing. 
This, if properly made, will stick to the skin and defy 
the elements. If it is unreasonably cold Edison will 
wear a double set of undergarments, and if a death- 
dealing blizzard sets in he may put on a third, but he 
never gives in to the overcoat. Moreover, his suits 
are all made of the same weight of cloth, summer and 
winter, and he never by any chance suflFers from res- 
piratory complaints. Whether this is due to his mode 
of dressing is, perhaps, a question, but the fact remains 
that on his trips to Florida he can take off his coat, 
roll it up for a pillow, and sleep on the wet grass with- 
out contracting a twinge of rheumatism or emitting 
a single sneeze. He has scarcely ever had a day's 
illness in his life, and he himself ascribes this happy 
state of affairs to common sense regarding dress and 
the capacity for hard work. 

Edison never wears a silk hat — even on Sundays — 
and on few occasions has he been known to carry a 
pair of gloves. Should he attend a dinner given 
especially in his honor, he does not appear in evening 
dress. Indeed, he has a particular aversion to this 
mode of costume, and nothing will persuade him to 
adopt it. Some years ago he so astonished the foot- 
man at a mansion where he had been invited to dinner 
by arriving in an ordinary Prince Albert that the man 
showed some reluctance to allowing him to enter. At 
the moment, however, the host came forward and 
smoothed things out by conducting the visitor to his 
room and summoning a valet. This man was also a 


little surprised at Edison's appearance, and delicately 
inquired if the inventor desired to dress, and if so, 
where he had left his dress-suit case. Edison replied 
that he was dressed already, and that he woiddn*t 
detain the valet, who finally departed. Afterwards 
he sat down to dinner in his comfortable Prince Albert, 
and cracked jokes about the affair with his host and 

i^^dison has strong opinions regarding diet. He 
firmly believes that half the ills to which fiesh is heir 
are due to incorrect and excessive eating. He him- 
self is very abstemious, and often does not consume 
a pound of food during the day. Yet he is no faddist 
regarding what he shall eat, taking everything he 
fancies, but in very small quantities. He believes 
in change of food, and declares that nature requires it, 
and so when he has been eating meat for any length 
of time, and begins to feel a little run down, he turns 
vegetarian for a spell, returning to meat again when 
he finds it is necessary. In this way any normal man 
or woman may keep in perfect health. In regard ' 
to wines and liquors Edison is equally abstemious. 
"Much liquor," he sa3rs, "is a bad thing for any one 
who wants to go through life and work in earnest. 
Unless taken in very moderate quantities it deadens 
all your nerves and makes you feel listless. A fellow 
in that fix isn't worth an3rthing but to sit aroimd and 
wait for the end to come. He just does everything 
mechanically." Total abstinence, however, does not 
appeal to Edison. He does not think it a good thing, 
and declares that total abstainers are usually pale, 
with sallow complexions and abnormally large shoul- 
ders, and have a greater tendency to consumption 
than people who take a little wine or spirit. A small 
quantity of "cordial" is not harmful; it is only when 


taken in excess that the mischief is done. An occa- 
sional sip of champagne Edison enjoys, and he can 
even appreciate an occasional bottle of beer, but not 
the English kind, which is too heavy. With regard 
to smoking, he has never felt any ill effects from the 
habit, though at one time he consumed each day twenty 
of the strongest cigars he could obtain. If he had 
found that his nerves suffered he would have stopped 
smoking altogether, but he never experienced any 
inconvenience from them. To-day he smokes less 
than he used to and his average is five a day — one 
after each meal and two in the evening. 

Eighteen years ago, when Edison was in England, 
he was interviewed regarding his ability to get through 
so much work, and he then ascribed his wonderful 
powers of endurance to correct diet and "sleeping 
when he wanted to." "If," he said, "I spend sixty 
hours at an invention, there must, naturally, be a loss 
of physical force, but I regain this by afterwards taking 
a slumber which may last from eighteen to twenty-four 
hours. In this way tired Nature reasserts herself, and 
both of us are satisfied." At that time Edison ap- 
pealed strongly to the British interviewer, and during 
his visit was probably the most popular man with the 
press that ever came to England's shores. He has 
known newspaper men so well throughout his life that 
he is more than ordinarily genial with them and ever 
ready to give all the information in his power. Said 
one English interviewer who spent an hour with him : 

"It is worth going a long way to chat and shake 
hands with Edison. The greatest practical electrician 
that ever lived is not more interesting than the man 
himself. We can realize from the strong, resolute look 
how the boy, whose regular schooling scarcely extended 
to half a year, succeeded in educating himself by stray 



reading at newspaper stalls and haphazard studies in 
telegraphy at the railway signalling station. With all 
its strength Mr. Edison's face wears a gentle expression. 
The suggestion of strength comes out when he is inter- 
ested in a discussion and driving his argument home. 
A noteworthy characteristic of his face is the attractive 
smile and the mixture of shrewdness and kindliness of 
the gray eyes. There is no simpler, more open, more 
unaffected man than Edison living. He seems as if he 
had no notion that he was anybody in particular. His 
shrewd, ready common sense is apparent even in the 
smallest things." 

Edison's greatest happiness is found in his labora- 
tory and his home, for, though appearances seem 
v^gainst it, the inventor is rather a domestic kind of 
man. True, he does not care for social life, and it is 
only by great diplomacy on the part of Mrs. Edison 
that he can be persuaded to attend any fimctionsor 
friendly gatherings. He does not like society, as the 
word is usually interpreted, but he is always glad to 
see interesting people — especially scientists — in his 
own home, and if his visitor is amusing and can tell 
good stories Edison is quite willing to stop up half the 
night or longer listening to them. The writer has a 
vivid recollection of calling upon him many years ago 
at the Orange laboratory by appointment one morn- 
ing at eleven o'clock, and being informed that the in- 
ventor had been up throughout the night and was 
then sleeping. He had left instructions that he was to 
be called at ten, but Mrs. Edison had refused to dis- 
turb him, taking upon herself any risk which might 
attend the breaking of an engagement. Edison never 
moved an eyelash until three o'clock, when he awoke 
and got up, scolding every one within earshot for 
having let him sleep so long. He came down to the 


laboratory accompanied by a Japanese friend in native 
costume, and apologized for the lateness of his appear- 
ance by explaining that the Oriental gentleman had 
kept him up until two in the morning telling funny 
stories. The Japanese, a highly cultured diplomatist 
in the service of the Mikado, sniiled with go(xi himior 
and some pride, and declared that everything would 
have been all right and the appointment kept if Mr. 
Edison had not at two o'clock commenced a full day's 
work and never gone to bed until eight. Hence die 
profoundness of his slumbers at the time when he 
should have been on his way to the laboratory. 

Visitors to the Edison laboratory occasionally arrive 
in such numbers that imless they are well known to 
the inventor he finds it necessary to decline giving 
them an interview owing to something more pressing 
occupying his attention. Some of these visitors plain- 
tively state that they have known "Tom Edison" since 
a boy, and they feel much aggrieved when the gateman 
informs them that it is impossible to see him that day. 
On one occasion a bonA-fide friend who had known 
Edison from his childhood called at the laboratory 
with a companion, and was extremely oflFended when 
informed that Mr. Edison was very busy and could 
not receive visitors. "What!" said the caller indig- 
nandy, "do you mean to say that Thomas Edison 
won't see me? Why, I have known him intimately all 
my life." "Oh, no, I don't say he won't see you," re- 
plied the man, "but Mrs. Edison waited here for two 
hoius this morning and had to go away without seeing 
him, and I don't suppose you know him any better 
than she does." 

Edison is remarkably practical. This was shown 
years ago when he declared that he never wasted any 
of his time upon inventions which would not prove 



useful or which would not pay for the time spent in 
perfecting them. When the phonograph was in its in- 
fancy he was complimented by a well-known scientist 
upon the wonder he had achieved, when the inventor 
somewhat startled his admirer by replying, "Yes, but 
it doesn't bring in any money." Another story illus- 
trative of the practiced side of his nature is also con- 
nected with the phonographic days. It was after he 
had made the cylinders of wax, and when a fine, deli- 
cate brush was necessary to keep them free from dust. 
The brush he used cost a dollar, and he made up his 
mind that it must be possible to obtain one equally 
serviceable for half the money or less. The hair, of 
course, had to be exceedingly fine, so as not to scratch 
the record, and he had been told that what he re- 
quired was cosdy, and a dollar was the lowest price at 
which the brushes could be manufactured. Edison 
thought otherwise, and after he had obtained speci- 
mens of hair from almost every known animal, he 
found that the red deer provided a hair so fine that it 
could scarcely be seen without the aid of a microscope. 
This was just what he had been looking for, and hence- 
forth his phonograph brushes cost five cents instead of 
a dollar. On another occasion a visitor found Edison 
one Sunday morning deeply occupied with his phono- 
graphic dolls. One was in pieces beside him, and the 
inventor was busy scribbling figures and line diagrams 
in a pocket-book. When asked to explain what he 
was busy on, Mr. fdison said: 

"The idea suddenly hit me at breakfast this morn- 
ing that I might cheapen the cost of this doll, and I 
couldn't rest till to-morrow to put my plan to the test. 
It occurred to me that I could make the framework 
that holds this tiny phonograph cheaper by changing 
its shape and thus saving metal. The change in shape 


will permit me to substitute a small brass screw for this 
large one, and so I can save several cents that way, 

From these little stories it must not be supposed 
that there is anything ''close" about Edison. As a 
matter of fact he cares little for wealth, and when 
experimenting or perfecting a new invention he never 
sits down to consider the cost. If it should take his 
entire fortune to attain his end he would spend it, and 
never since he has had the handling of big sums has 
he allowed expenditure to stand in the way of success. 
Towards his workpeople he has always been known 
for his liberality and generosity. He believes in pay- 
ing a good man a good salary, in encoiuraging him by 
a liberal wage to give the best that is in him, in ''rais- 
ing" him as his usefulness increases. The employer 
who pays his men poor wages and then expects good 
results he considers a fool, and strikers under such cir- 
cumstances have his sympathy. But he can be stem 
when he thinks he is being imposed upon, and when 
he knows himself to be in the right he can act with 
the grim determination of a Napoleon. Years ago 
outside agitators got among his men employed at 
Edison, Morris County, and as a result eighty of his 
workpeople in the machine-room formulated a demand 
for time and a half for working Satiuday nights, and 
double time when Sunday work was necessary. A 
petition to this eflfect was drawn up land presented 
to Edison by a committee of four. His reply was that 
the rate of wages paid was liberal, but he would con- 
sider the matter. The committee arbitrarily told him 
that he could have four days to decide. Then Edison's 
eyes lost their genial e^mpe^ion and took on a ^int that 
indicated 5ome of thiJ^etermination which dominates 
him. He informed that committee he could reply im- 


mediately and give them all the summer to think it 
over. "Go back to Edison," he said, "and the reply 
will be there by the time you are." He then tele- 
graphed Superintendent Conly to close the works at 
once, as the demand, in view of the wages received, 
was imreasonable. The following morning the men 
returned in a body and begged to be taken back on 
the old footing, which was permitted. Since that day 
there has been no strike among Edison's employees. 

If the inventions of Edison are remarkable, he him- 
self is no less a physical wonder. ''Tor forty-five years 
he has labored incessantly regardless of the ordinary 
laws of nature. In the pursuit of some desired end 
time has been forgotten, sleep ignored, food left un- 
touched, rest abandoned. Yet he has not suffered. 
/ To-day he looks twenty years younger than his age, 
^ and he can still work twenty or thirty hoinrs at a stretch 
without feeling unduly fatigued.l^is juvenility is re- 
markable, and his capacity for recuperation is equally 
astonishing. Perhaps the secret of his Jjpeless activity 
is his determination never to worry. **I)on't worry," 
says Edison, "but work hard, and you can look for- 
ward to a reasonably lengthy existence — barring acci- 
dents, of course." Edison's passion for work has been 
likened to some men's love for strong drink, and the 
comparison is not at all bad. Recently the inventor 
stated one Saturday night that he intended to quit 
work for a spell, and his manager need not expect him 
for a few days. That manager smiled, for he had 
heard the same thmg before. Monday morning at 
eight Edison was hard at work as usual. It is prob- 
ably the only thing that the inventor cannot do — give 
up work, and until he can invent something to make 
. the task easy he probably never wiU. 
A Edison is absent-minded, and even now, when ab- 


sorbed in any deep problem, matters of importance 
slip his memory very speedily, and if he were not re- 
minded from time to time complications might arise. 
European celebrities frequently visit the laboratory at 
Orange, and Edison is always glad to see them, but 
more than once some idea has struck him while in 
conversation, and he has left them with a hurried word 
of apology, and, an hour later, he has been discovered 
hard at work in his chemical laboratory — everything 
and every one forgotten in the pursuit of some elusive 
clew. On one occasion at least he forgot his name. 
This was in the early days when he went to pay his 
taxes, and, as was customary then, got in line to await 
his turn. Moving on monotonously as the man ahead 
paid his dues and passed out, Edison became deeply 
absorbed in the mental solving of some problem, and 
by the time he reached the cashier's window he was 
oblivious to his surroundings. The clerk asked him his 
name. He looked blankly at the man, tried vainly to 
recollect his baptismal cognomen, and was about to 
pass out when the tax commissioner, who was standing 
near and who knew him, said, "Hello, Mr. Edison," 
and memory returned. He afterwards declared that, 
had his life depended on giving his correct name, he 
coidd not have done so. At one time he had serious 
thoughts of studying some memory system, but he 
never did, and consequently he is as forgetful to-day 
as ever he was. 

The following incident is another good example of 
his occasional lapses into absent-mindedness, and has 
the additional interest of being vouched for by one of 
his co-workers. During his experimental work in con- 
nection with the invention of the incandescent electric- 
light system, when the inventor had been up several 
nights in succession and was very much worn out, he 


entered one of the workrooms at four o'clock in the 
morning (having previously left instructions to be called 
at nine, when breakfast was to be brought to him) and 
was soon locked in profound slumber. Meanwhile one 
of his co-workers — Mr. Bachelor, I believe — had ar- 
ranged to have breakfast in the same room at 8.30, 
> and w]ien he came in and saw the inventor peacefully 
t^fi^ a much-needed rest, the idea of playing a joke 

l^^rfpon him came as an inspiration. So, learning from 
the young man who brought in his meal that Edison's 
breakfast would be ready at nine, at which time he, 
the young man, woidd arouse the "boss," Bachelor 
leisurely proceeded with his meal and read the paper. 
At nine o'clock the assistant, prompt to time, entered 
tcf awaken his master. After a good deal of shaking 
aiid pxmimelling — for Edison is rather a heavy sleeper 

,4- the "old man" got up and sat down to the table to 
await the coming of his breakfast, which, the youth 
declared, was "on the way." It took a few minutes, 
however, and during the interval the inventor was so 
sleepy that he dozed off again. Then, when it finally 
did arrive. Bachelor quietly appropriated it and put in 
its place the dSbris of his own meal. A moment later 
Edison awoke, gazed at the fragments before him, 
looked into the empty cup, thought a moment, and 
then, taking out a Cigar, he lit it and proceeded to en- 
joy his usual "after-meal" smoke, quite content in the 
belief 'that he had eaten his breakfast and forgotten 
all about it. When his co-worker enlightened him on 
the point he gave an amused grin and merely remark- 
ing, "Well, that's one on me" (a favorite expression of 
his), he proceeded to do good justice to a substantial 
meal. He afterwards declared that though it never 
occurred to him that he hadn't eaten anything, he cer- 
tainly had an inward feeling that he could have done 
with another breakfast. 


""Though Edison thus suffers from absent-mindedness, 
^in common with many other great men, he is possessed 
of a memcHy which is remarkable for its keenness. He 
can keep in mind a dozen inventions, and remember 
the smdlest details in connection with each without 
any effort at all. Moreover, in his experiments he 
frequently hits upon some phenomena which, while of 
no use to him at the time, are remembered for futtue 
inventions, and invariably taken advantage of. This 
has dearly been shown in connection with the tele- 
phone, the phonograph, and the chalk battery, to which 
reference was made in earlier chapters. He has a well- 
stored mind, the capacity for absorbing knowledge is 
strong with him, and he never forgets a principle once 
learned. He is said to have thoroughly digested the 
substance of his entire library, comprising what is 
probably the most complete collection of scientific 
books in the world, and is more famiUar with past and 
present literature dealing with science than any other 
man living. He is also extraordinarily quick to catch 
on to the principles of a thing. Years ago some Eng- 
lish capitalists visited America to see if they couldn't 
organize a typewriter trust, and they thought it would 
be a good plan to interest Edison in the matter. So 
they went out to the laboratory and took all their legal 
documents with them, hoping that he would pass judg- 
ment on them. At the time Edison knew nothing 
whatever about typewriters, and he asked if there was 
any book that would enlighten him upon the subject. 
One of the men had just such a book in his pocket, 
and he handed it to the inventor. Mr. Edison glanced 
rapidly through it, spent about ten minutes over the 
work, and then surprised the experts by his knowl- 
edge of the subject. Had they come about flying 
machines or incubators or submarines it would have 


been the same. Given a comprehensive book on the 
subject, Edison would have grasped the principles 
with the same facility and rapidity as any one else 
would have turned the pages; but he takes no 
credit to himself for this faculty. ''It is partly a 
gift," he explains, ''and partly cultivation. It is 
wonderful how one can accustom one's self to ab- 
sorbing facts when necessary. Most people could 
do it if they wished." 

One writer recently said of Edison, "He has a most 
retentive memory and enough imagination, but not 
too much, for practicality. Imagination in an inventor 
is a dangerous quality. An inventor must have it, but 
if he has too much of it he is sure to become a dreamer. 
That is where Edison is strong ; he has just the requisite 
amount of imagination to make him conceive great 
things, yet not enough to make him a dreamer. He 
is astonishingly practical in all his ideas." Few 
dreamers possess retentive memories, for dreams them- 
selves are but fleeting things. Edison himself has no 
use for a dreamer, and none has ever foimd a footing 
in his laboratory. All must be "hustlers," though they 
may never hope to "hustle" as Edison does; people 
who "hustle" generally renjember things. 

Edison never forgets a face. He will regard a man 
newly introduced with great keenness, and after that 
his featxires apparently are indelibly impressed upon 
his brain. At a recent dinner given in Edison's honor, 
the most striking thing in connection with it was the 
number of men who renewed their acquaintance with 
the inventor and found that he had not forgotten them. 
Guest after guest was brought up with scarcely a hope 
that Edison would recollect him, and went away mar- 
velling at his memory for faces. A characteristic inci- 
dent occurred when Marion H. Kemer, of the Western 


Union Telegraph Company, was brought up by W. S. 
Logue, of Mr. Edison's staff. 

"I don't suppose you remember this man?" said 
Mr. Logue, by way of introduction. 

Edison peered into his face. "To be sure I do," 
he replied promptly; "it's Marion Kemer," and a 
cordisd hand was extended. 

The two men had not met for thirty years or more, 
when both were experimenting in Sigmund Berg- 
mann's little shop in Wooster Street, where Edison 
found greater conveniences for working upon the 
phonograph, then in the tin-foil record stage, and 
Kemer was working upon a burglar alarm system. 

After that the two men drifted apart, yet less 
than half a minute was required to bridge the gap 
of thirty years. 

This characteristic of Edison to remember faces was 
once the cause of an amusing incident which was re- 
lated a short time since in the pages of the Sun^ and 
which I quote by permission. It has the additional 
value of being true, and on the occasion that the inci- 
dent occurred no one enjoyed the joke more than 
Edison, who was the unconscious cause of much 
mental perturbation in the mind of at least one of the 
actors in the little comedy. 

"In a certain great machine-manufacturing plant 
devoted to electrical appliances visitors are constandy 
being received from all quarters of the globe. The 
guides who take these visitors through the works have 
all kinds of experiences. It often happens that the 
visitor who knows the least about electrical matters 
will ask the stiffest questions and make the most dis- 
concerting remarks. It is rather staggering, for in- 
stance, after you have made your clearest and most 
concise explanation of the phenomenon of electricity 


as you understand it, to be met with the comforting 
remark — 

"* After all, Mr. , you don't really know what 

electricity isl' 

"The average working electrician worries no more 
about the nature of the force he handles than he does 
about the doctrines of Confucius. One of the linemen 
demonstrates the idea by the recital of a past experience. 

"*When I worked on a third rail at Hartford, the 
boss says: "You fellows don't care where the juice 
comes from or where it goes to; all you care about 
is where to get it and where not to get it. So you, 
Hennesy, keep your crowbar oflf that third rail or you'll 
have a beautiful short circuit and a pirate-technical dis- 
play that'll make you so blind that you'll not be able to 
tell bad whiskey from ice water for six months." ' 

"One engineer at the factory, who may be called 
Steve because his name is something else, is frequently 
detailed to take visitors about on account of his -fund 
of information and his clear, lucid manner of explana- 
tion. On one occasion he escorted a guest from the 
West — a light-haired little gentleman, who seemed 
duly impressed with all he saw, but made no comment. 
He was apparently drinking in and criticising every 
word which young Steve uttered, and that usually 
confident gentleman grew nervous and suspicious. 

"'This fellow,' he thought, 'must be some smart 
electrician, and he is just taking all my statements with 
a huge grain of salt.' 

"At last, when they arrived back at the office, and 
Steve was feeling limp and tired, the little gentleman 
held out his hand and said — 

"*I am exceedingly obliged to you. I don't know 
much about the electrical trade. I am a barber. If 
you ever come to Chicago, look me up.* 


''Steve had recovered from this, and was begmning 
to look and feel like himself once more^ when he was 
again detailed to escort a visitor through the works. 
This was a silent and undemonstrative man, who paid 
considerable attention to rather insignificant machines 
and details. Consequently, Steve rather hastily con- 
cluded that he had another barber to amuse. More- 
over, as the quiet visitor showed litde or no surprise 
at, or appreciation of, the many really remarkable 
machines and operations, Steve was aggrieved, and for 
the honor of the works determined to shake some en- 
thusiasm out of him. So he proceeded to load him 
up with many wonderful stories. 

" He pointed out a dynamo so powerful that it never 
had been and never could be run up to full cs^acity, 
it being utterly impossible to control the current He 
gave a dissertation on the incandescent lamp and its 
manufacture, asserting that its discovery was due to 
the accidental observation of a lightning flash playing 
on a two-pronged fork in a pickle botde. Waxing elo- 
quent, he rose on his toes, stretched out his right arm, 
and exclaimed — 

'''And so, that inestimable boon to mankind, the 
incandescent lamp, was bom I' 

"At this moment the visitor stepped up to a work- 
man, who was winding coils, slapped him on the back, 
and said — 

•"Hello, Dan 1' 

"The man started, looked up, and his face flushed 
with surprise and pleasure as he grasped the out- 
stretched hand. 

"'God bless my soul I It's my old boss,' he ex- 
claimed. 'Mr. Edison, how arc you?' 

"Steve staggered back and sat down on a casting. 
He tried to think it over, to recollect some of the stufiE 


he'd been telling — but his mind was a blur. One 
thing only stood out distinctly : he had told the ' Wizard 
of Menlo Park/ the inventor of the incandescent lamp, 
that it was the evolution of a pickle bottle and a two- 
pronged fork ! Then he disappeared. 

"A week or two later he received from Mr. Edison 
a book on electrical wonders, written for juveniles, on 
the fly-leaf of which was a pen drawing of a fork in a 
pickle bottle, and below, the inscription : 

"'And so that inestimable boon to mankind, the in- 
candescent lamp, was bom.' Sometime in the future, 
perhaps, that little book may fetch a round sum of 
money. At present no money could buy it." 

Edison himself occasionally likes to take a rise out 
of a visitor, but he would never let himself go to the 
extent that Steve did. It is, of course, but natural 
that many interviewers should call upon him whose 
acquaintance with electricity is not very profound. 
When this is the case — and Edison can tell in about 
two minutes whether a man knows a dynamo from a 
galvanic battery — the inventor is very considerate, 
and endeavors to make his language as untechnical 
as possible. Perhaps this has something to do with 
his immense popularity with newspaper men who all 
delight in getting an assignment to call at the labora- 
tory. On one occasion, however, a particularly im- 
scientific journalist was accorded a few minutes by 
Edison, the object of the visit being to "write up" a 
new and extremely intricate machine which the inventor 
had recently perfected. Edison was very anxious that 
the interviewer should get his facts correctly, and 
whenever he noticed a look of despair come into his 
visitor's face, he would pause and ask: "Do you 
understand ?" Receiving a faint affirmative, he would 
proceed again with his rapid and fluent description, 


only to pull up once more and repeat the question: 
"Now, do you understand?" The journalist, who 
kept getting hotter and hotter and more fogged in his 
frantic efforts to grasp the meaning of this and that, 
would occasionally venture to stop Edison's flow of 
eloquence by declaring that he wasn't quite clear on 
such and such a point and would be glad if the in- 
ventor would explain a little more lucidly. Whereupon 
Edison would heave a profound sigh and commence 
all over again. 

Finally the journalist, in an apologetic tone, said 
he was afraid he knew very little about machinery and 
was almost ashamed of his ignorance regarding elec- 
tricity, upon which Edison brightened up and with his 
customary kindness declared that the young man knew 
much more than many who called at the laboratory. 
And in order to put his visitor completely at his ease 
he inquired if he had ever told him the story about the 
fireman he once met in Canada. 

" No," replied the journalist, thankful for the chance 
of at last hearing something that he could understand. 
"Please tell it me." 

"Well," replied Edison, "in a certain Canadian 
town where I was running a telegraph ^office in my 
youth, a new factory, with a fine engine-house, was put 
up. I visited this factory one day to see the engine. 
The engineer was out, and the fireman, a new hand, 
showed me about. As we stood admiring the engine 
together, I said — 

"* What horse power has this engine?' 

"The fireman gave a loud laugh. 'Horse power! ' 
he exclaimed. 'Why, man, don't you know that this 
machine goes by steam?' 

"Another fellow," continued Edison, "who used to 
assist me in the early days was almost as green, and 


with less excuse. He helped me once to erect a minia- 
ture electric-light plants and when the job was complete 
he was so pleased with his part of the work that he 
said to me with a smile of pride on his face: ^Mr. 
Edison, after working with you like this, I believe I 
could put up an electric-light plant myself.' 

"'Could you?' saidl. 

"*I believe I could,' he answered. 'There's only 
one thing that beats me.' 

"'What is that?' I asked. 

"'I don't quite see,' he answered, 'how you get the 
oil along the wires.'" 

Lady interviewers have occasionally bearded Edison 
in his lair, but the inventor prefers the masculine 
species, even if they are sometimes less attractive. 
Some years ago a lady on a religious paper thought it 
would be highly interesting if she obtained from Edison 
his opinion on the "Christianizing of the world" and 
some facts regarding the best way in which it could 
be speedily and permanently accomplished. She was 
an intelligent and bright young woman, but worried a 
little bit too much about the betterment of that part of 
the globe where, we are told in the hymn, "the heathen 
in his blindness bows down to wood and stone." She 
was very courteously received by Edison, who sub- 
mitted quite quietly to a perfect fusillade of questions 
respecting his religious beliefs and disbeliefs. After 
stating that all scientific men, he thought, believed in 
God, that he hadn't any particular creed, that he con- 
sidered all religions had some good points, and that he 
went to church when he felt inclined and not oftener, 
he was requested by his interviewer to pass Judgment 
on the great question, "Was the world becoming Chris- 
tianized ? If not, would it ever become Christianized ? " 
Edison thought deeply, his brows contracted with the 


profoundness of the problem, until the young woman 
began to fear that the question was beyond him. And 
then his brow cleared, a smile rose to his lips, his eyes 
lost their profoimd expression, and he replied: "Not 
only do I think that the world in time will become 
Christianized, but I believe we shall both live to see it." 
Then, as the yoxmg woman gave an ecstatic upward 
glance, he added: "Just look at the way these big 
improved machine-gims are wiping out the heathen." 

As appropriate to the conversation,- Edison then 
proceeded to show his visitor plans for a new collection 
plate of a very novel make, which he felt sure would 
prove highly successful in drawing substantial contri- 
butions from any ordinary congregation. " You know," 
he said with a smile, "how modest people are in drop- 
ping money into the collection plate ? They don't want 
it to be known how generous they are, so I have thought 
out a device furnished with slots. The silver coins — 
half-dollars, quarters, and dimes — would fall through 
their respective slots into a velvet-lined compartment, 
but the nickels and pennies, falling through theirs, 
would ring a bell like a cash register." 



The present writer has had Edison photographed 
so often that a few words regarding the inventor as a 
poser before the camera may not, perhaps, be with- 
out interest. The first occasion was many years ago 
at his laboratory. Silver Lake, New Jersey, and though 
the pictures were really excellent Edison did not think 
so. But there was a " reason," which will subsequently 
appear. We had taken with us a snapshot camera 
fitted with films, and invited the inventor to step out 
into the sunlight to have his picture taken. He had 
no objection, though he looked a little askance at his 
well-worn and chemical-stained coat. He even tried 
to rub away some of the dust, but immediately after- 
wards remarked with great philosophy that he "guessed 
it wouldn't show in the picture." 

We guessed it wouldn't either, and, leaving his 
laboratory, Edison took up his position near the door 
of his office and the shutter was snapped. Then one 
of his men brought a chair, and a sitting position was 
taken, after which Edison examined the camera with 
some minuteness. On making the discovery that we 
had used films he said he was afraid the pictures 
wouldn't turn out very good, as he did not believe in 
anything but plates in portraiture. "Films," he said, 
"are bound to stretch more or less, and when they do 
— well, what becomes of your features?" However, 



the photographs turned out very well — excellent, in 
fact — and those in the laboratory who saw the prints 
vowed that we had got the "old man" to a dot. When 
we showed them to Edison, however, he recollected 
that they were the ones we had taken with films 'and 
immediately handed them back, saying they were very 

On another occasion, when visiting the Orange 
laboratory for photographic purposes, Joseph Byron, 
the artist, together with an expert assistant, accom- 
panied us, and we photographed the laboratory from 
end to end. Edison happened to be away at the time, 
but he returned at four o'clock in order to give us the 
promised sittings. Naturally we wished to show the 
inventor in his own chemical laboratory, as being the 
scene where he evolved those wonders with which from 
time to time he startled civilization. First of all, how- 
ever, we met him in the library, and it was suggested 
that a picture should be made of the inventor " attend- 
ing to his correspondence." Nothing loath, he seated 
himself at his desk, took out one of his famous note- 
books, and was soon so absorbed that he never knew 
when the photograph was taken, or raised his head 
when the flash was fired. We were obliged to remind 
him that he had promised to pose for us in the chemical 
laboratory, and he roused himself with a start, regard- 
ing us for a moment in some astonishment. He laughed 
as soon as his thoughts returned, and said : 

" Yes, I'm a bit absent-minded at times, but I'm not 
so bad as I used to be. Some years ago I remember 
one of the boys from a New York paper came down to 
take some pictures of me, and made some very funny 
ones. The fact was I had been up all night and several 
nights, and was pretty well tired out, but I had prom- 
ised him a sitting, and, as I always try to keep my 


promises, I told him to go ahead. Well, before he had 
time to arrange his camera I was sound asleep in my 
chair. When I woke up he had vanished and I went 
to bed. A few days later he came down again and 
showed me the photographs — half a dozen of them — 
depicting me in various stages of sleep. We had a 
hearty laugh over them, and I gave him another sitting." 

When we reached the chemical laboratory Edison 
immediately fell to work and began experimenting 
with phials and retorts and other mysterious-looking 
things, and again forgot all about the photographer. 
However, as soon as he took on a characteristic pose 
Byron would say, "Just a moment, Mr. Edison," 
and he would remain in position until the picture was 
made. As the laboratory was not very bright, for the 
day was cloudy, a mixture of daylight with a small 
flash was used, which gave most excellent results. 
Some one, however, seeing smoke issue from the windows 
concluded that a fire was in progress, and informed 
the day watchman, who came running into the room 
in great excitement. 

After a few minutes the inventor left his table and 
walked to the outer laboratory, where Mr. Ott was 
busy watching some queer compound bubbling over 
an electric spark. Edison, noting his tense expression, 
declared that his chief assistant would make an excellent 
study of an "Alchemist," and in spite of Mr. Ott's 
modest protestations that he didn't want to pose, the 
plate was exposed. While this picture was being 
made Mr. Edison, who had found a bottle containing 
some soft compound and was extracting it by the aid of 
his penknife, had struck another characteristic atti- 
tude, which was also transferred to a plate. On being 
asked what the bottle contained, he replied, "Liquid 
glass," and seemed much amused when the assistant 


innocently remarked that he didn't know one could 
preserve glass in bottles like pickles. 

A few days prior to the twenty-filth anniversary of his 
invention of the incandescent light we photographed 
the inventor again. He was in the highest spirits, and 
was on the eve of going for a holiday to Florida. He 
loves fishing, and was as pleased at the prospect of 
having a "good time" as a schoolboy might have been. 
He came down specially to the laboratory to give the 
promised sittings, and we took him in a variety of 
interesting poses. While in the chemical laboratcny 
Mrs. Edison entered and whispered to her husband 
that a certain well-known daily newspaper had sent 
down a representative. Would he spare him ten 
minutes? "Not on your life," replied the inventor, 
as though too excited over his approaching holiday to 
wish to talk. Mrs. Edison was too tactful to press the 
matter, and retired to give the disappointing message. 
Presently she returned, and was consulting with her 
husband over some subject, when one of the photog- 
raphers whispered that a picture showing the two 
together and in the laboratory would be imique. Mrs. 
Edison's permission was asked for the making of the 
negative, but she begged to be excused as she had a 
great objection to being photographed. Edison at (mce 
took in the situation, and with great presence of mind 
remarked to his wife: "My dear, don't mind those 
gentlemen, they will soon be finished." Then turning 
to the operators he screwed his left eye into a very 
palpable wink, as much as to say, "Go ahead," and 
immediately returned to the discussion he was having 
with Mrs. Edison. No other hint was required, and 
we "went ahead" at once, with the result that we ob- 
tained one of the most interesting photographs of the 
inventor and his wife ever taken. 




As has been remarked before, Edison is an extremely 
modest man, and perhaps one of the best examples of 
his modesty was given a few years ago when he was 
making out an application blank for membership in 
the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia. Among other 
particulars it was necessary to give his qualification for 
membership, and in the space reserved for that piece 
of information the inventor wrote: "I have designed 
a concentrating plant and a machine shop, &c." A 
very big volume indeed would be required to contain all 
that that " &c." included. 

One of Edison's stanchest admirers was Pasteur, 
the noted bacteriologist, who was not aflSicted with 
modesty, as is evidenced by the following little anecdote. 
An American journalist of some note was interviewing 
Pasteur when the discoverer of the cure for hydrophobia 
remarked: "Your Edison is a great man. Wh«i the 
history of our generation comes to be written two 
names that will stand out most prominendy in science 
will be his and — mine!" 

Apropos of Edison's drastic opinions on the subject 
of diet, the inventor is fond of telling a story illustra- 
tive of how great a slave a m&n may become to meal 
hours if he chooses. " You know, of course," he would 
say, "all about the Ohio man who went to New York 
for the first time, and, having taken a room at a good 



hotel, unpacked his grip and then went to the desk to 
inquire about the meals. 

***What is the eatin* hours in this yere hotel?' he 
said to the clerk. 

"* Breakfast/ the clerk answered, 'seven to eleven; 
lunch, eleven to three ; dinner, three to eight ; supper, 
eight to twelve.' 

"* Jerusalem!' exclaimed the astonished farmer, 
'when am I goin' to git time to see the town?'" 

Edison, as has frequently been stated, takes little 
notice of the flight of time. He never carries a watch, 
and there is no clock to be seen in the chemical laboratory 
where he works. With him it is time to knock oflF when 
a task is finished — the hour has nothing to do with it. 
His workpeople, of course, disperse at a fixed hour each 
day, but nothing is more likely to irritate the inventor 
when engaged in some interesting experiments with a 
close associate than to be Reminded that time is passing. 
An English admirer recently wrote to Edison to ask 
if he might bring his little son to see him, for he was 
visiting America and would not like to take the child 
back without his having spoken to the inventor. 
Edison, ever agreeable, wrote back to say that he would 
be glad to see them both. After a cordial greeting the 
visitor bade the boy look upon the inventor, and rec- 
ollect that he had met one of the great ones of the earth. 
Edison, somewhat embarrassed, disclaimed any claim 
to greatness, whereupon the visitor begged that he would 
say something to the boy which he would carry away 
with him and which would help to influence his life. 
Edison looked down upon the lad, patted his curly head, 
and then, with a smile of unusual kindliness, said, 
"My boy, never watch the clock." 

Edison has strong opinions on cigarette smoking. 
Some years ago he said to an interviewer: ''Smoking 


tobacco is a pretty good working stimulant. But 
cigarettes, they're deadly. It is not the tobacco, it's 
the acrolein produced by the burning paper that does 
the harm, and let me tell you — " his voice betrayed 
some feeling and his face grew grave — "acrolein is one 
of the most terrible drugs in its effect on the human 
body. The burning of ordinary cigarette paper always 
produces acrolein. That is what makes the smoke 
irritating. I really believe it often makes boys insane. 
We sometimes develop acrolein in the laboratory in 
our experiments with glycerine. Ojie whiff of it from 
the oven drove one of my assistants out of the building 
the other day. I can hardly exaggerate the dangerous 
nature of acrolein, and yet that is what a man or boy 
is dealing with every time he smokes an ordinary 
cigarette. The harm that such a deadly poison, when 
taken into the system, must inflict upon a growing 
lad is horrible to contemplate." 

"The other day," he continued, "I found a package 
of cigarettes which some one had dropped on my 
oflSce step. The very sight of it gave me a feeling of 
disgust, and I went back into the office and wrote this 
sign: *A degenerate, who is retrograding toward the 
lower animal life, has lost his tack.' And I nailed the 
package with the sign up in a conspicuous place. I 
was mad at first, but I carried the thing through as a 
joke. The fellow, whoever he was (and I never foimd 
out), must have been a facetious scamp, for he con- 
fiscated his cigarettes and nailed a cigar up in their 
place. The point of the joke, of course, was that I 
smoke cigars down here in the shop nearly all day long." 

Edison is a close student of the newspapers, and has 
a habit of cutting out any paragraph (not necessarily 
of a scientific natiure) which appeals to him. In going 
throu^ some of his papers one day the writer came 


across the following paragraph which happily illustrates 
what Edison has always asserted, viz., that it is worry 
that kills and not hard work. The inventor probably 
saved the cutting for the reason that it so succinctly 
puts into words his own thoughts, and for that reason 
I reproduce it here: 

''It is well to be concerned about one's business 
sufficiently to look after it in all its details, but it is not 
well to be so concerned that one cannot sleep. It is 
a privilege to work, but that privilege should not be 
abused. It is not an indication of deep intelligence for 
a man to labor until his vital forces are exhausted. 
When a man works more than is good for him, sensible 
people look upon him as one who considers this the 
real life, instead of the temporal existence preceding the 
life which is to come. Thomas Alva Edison is a happy 
and healthy man. He does not worry. He is great as 
an inventor and great as a man, and the men of this and 
coming generations will do well to follow his example, 
remembering always that it is worry and not work which 
kills, and, furthermore, that all the worry in the world 
never helped to emancipate one from the thraldom of a 
bad business situation. On the other hand, worry has 
unfitted many a man for the task of meeting obligations, 
which caused the worry, when they came." These 
clever remarks — I wish I knew the name of their 
author — should be hung above the desk of every 
business man in the country — at least of every busi- 
ness man who makes a worry of his work. 
, And here may be given Edison's remarks on 
newspapers. It must be remembered that the inventor 
was once a newspaper man himself, and he has in his 
heart a very warm comer for the "boys" who follow 
journalism as a profession, though, sad to relate, he has 
not always been treated'well by them, and has, indeed, 


on more than one occasion forbidden representatives 
of certain papers entering his laboratory. However, 
as he himself will cheerfully remark, there are black 
sheep in every flock, be they in the clerical, scientific, 
literary, military, or medical fold, and this fact has in 
no way changed the very high opinion he has of the 
press as a whole. '^ Looking over the whole country," 
he says, "I have come to the conclusion that the greatest 
factor in our progress has been the newspaper press. 
When one wants to do a thing the newspapers take 
it up. Everybody reads the newspapers, everybody 
knows the situation, and we all act together." On 
another occasion he said: "To let the world know 
through type who and what and where you are, and 
what you have which this great world wants, is the 
secret of success, and the printing press is its mightiest 
machine to that end." 

For a great many years Edison had no great belief 
in the advantages of book-keeping — even that kind 
of book-keeping which comprises double and single 
entries and other mysteries — though his faith in its 
usefulness as well as necessity has long since been re- 
established. And in support of this queer lack of con- 
fidence in what is generally regarded as the sheet anchor 
of every firm's successful career, he sometimes relates 
how in his early days, when he first started in business 
for himself, book-keeping ran him into an extravagance 
which, as it turned out, he could ill afford. 

It was in the Newark days, and having opened his 
factory and engaged his men he was advised by his 
friends to hire the services of a capable accountant in 
order that the books should be correctly kept. No 
self-respecting firm, he was informed, coiild get along 
without a book-keeper, and so a book-keeper was 
engaged. For a year Edison directed the affairs of his 


business and never thought any more of the man 
of figures until at the end of the first twelve months 
the accountant drew up a statement and presented it 
to the inventor. That statement brought great joy 
to the heart of Edison, for by it he saw that the firm's 
status had improved to the extent of $8000 during 
the year. He gave a whoop, and soon every one in 
the building heard that the factory was making good 
money. Edison felt so pleased that he issued orders 
for a big dinner to be held in the stock-room, and the 
entire staff, from the overseer to the hiunblest mem- 
ber, was invited. They all had a good time ; Edison 
was in the highest spirits, the eatables and drinkables 
were of the best, and every one voted the banquet 
a great success. 

Then, after Edison had discharged the bill and the 
excitement occasioned by the knowledge that he had 
made a good profit had somewhat evaporated, he be- 
gan to think. He really couldn't figure out how the 
profit had been arrived at, and, calling his book-keeper 
into his office, he spent an hour or two with that gentle- 
man going over the accounts. As they proceeded in 
their investigations Edison's face became longer and 
longer, while the accountant himself showed some signs 
of nervousness. Finally, it became only too evident 
that a mistake had been made, and when the debits 
and credits were at last disentangled, it was found that 
instead of $8000 profit there had been a loss of $7000. 
Edison was very much upset, said some hard things 
about book-keeping in general and his own book- 
keeper in particular, but finally laughed and put his 
accountant a little more at his ease by declaring that it 
didn't matter, and perhaps they would do better next 
time. The following year there really was an excellent 
profit, but Edison celebrated the event more quietly. 


and the staff was obliged to do without a dinner at his 
expense. But even though the accountant made no 
more mistakes it was a very long time before Edison's 
belief in the infallibility of book-keeping was thoroughly 

Mr. A. A. Anderson, the well-known American 
artist, who painted a very fine portrait of Edison in 
1903, relates some interesting facts regarding the in- 
ventor and refers to Edison's attitude towards mathe- 
matics. He said: ^'I tried to paint Edison as the 
scientist, for it is the artist's duty not only to study his 
subject well, but to consider for what purpose the 
picture is designed. I enjoyed painting Edison, though 
he is no easy subject. He is restless, imtil he gets his 
thoughts concentrated upon some scientific problem, 
and then he becomes quiet, and the expression upon his 
face is one that an artist loves to catch and transmit to 
the -world. But it was not so easy to get him thinking, 
for his brain works best in a noise. He likes to be in his 
factory or workshop, with the hum and clatter of his 
machinery about him. But I know something of 
electricity, and am deeply interested in it, so I was able 
by conversation to lead him into a train of thought that 
would get him into the proper condition for sitting as a 

''In painting him I learned that he has the mind, 
not of a deductive reasoner, but of the man inspired, 
you might almost say. He arrives at his conclusions 
by intuition and not by mathematical reasoning. For 
instance, when he invented the ordinary pear-shaped 
glass bulb for incandescent electric lights he wanted 
to ascertain its precise cubic contents. He gave the 
problem to several eminent mathematicians and they 
figured it out. When they brought their answers he 
told them that they were all wrong. He could not 


tdl exactly how he reached his own condusion^ but 
he knew what it was and wanted to prove it. His 
method of proving it illustrates the practicality of his 
ways. He had made a series of tin cubes, forming a 
nest, each one a minute quantity smaller than the one 
enclosing it. He filled a bulb with water and poured 
it from one cube to the other untU he foimd which of 
them the contents fitted exactly." 

Edison invariably refers to his genius for arriving 
at correct solutions without employing mathematics 
as "guesswork/' and when engaged on the Central 
Station idea he had many a tussle with mathemati- 
cians, who endeavored to pit their mathenuitical 
deductions against his common-sense reasoning. "In 
all the work connected with the building of the first 
Central Station," he said in after years, "the greatest 
bugbears I had to contend with were the mathemati- 
cians. I found after a while that I could guess a good 
deal closer than they could figiure, so I went on guess- 
ing." His first dynamos were built by guesswork, and 
when asked how it came about that they were generally 
up to the required power he would reply with a smile, 
"Well, I happened to be a pretty good guesser." 

Edison, as previously mentioned, has a name for 
being very kindly disposed towards newspaper men, 
who come to see him on various subjects of interest — 
from his latest invention down to his opinion on nuts 
as a satisfactory form of diet. If the subject is of a 
technical nature, the inventor generally clothes his ex- 
planations in language which is easily understood by the 
very freshest reporter. On one occasion, however, so 
very green a young man called to question him regard- 
ing a new light which Edison had evolved while ex- 
perimenting with the X-ray, that the temptation to treat 
him to something a little above his head was too great, 


and after showing him what the new light would do, 
the inventor unburdened himself of the following: 

"Of course you will understand," he said, "that 
ammeters placed in the primary circuit show a mean 
current of two ampferes when the lamp is giving one 
candle." Beads of perspiration began to ooze from 
the brow of the reporter, but he managed to get some- 
thing down and declared that he fully agreed with what 
the inventor had said. "Well," continued Edison, 
"I need scarcely tell you that the drop of potential 
across the primary is three-tenths of a volt." The 
reporter faintly murmured he believed that that was 
about the usual percentage. "But you must not for- 
get," went on his tormentor, "that the current is 
interrupted 250 times per second." The reporter said 
he would try to remember it. "And also that it is 
closed four-fifths of the time and opened one-fifth of the 
time." At this stage the newspaper man could only 
nod with the faintest appearance of sagacity. "The 
spectrum of light," continued Edison, "is a lower 
refrangibility than the arc light. Do you follow me?" 
The dazed man gave a more animated nod than he 
thought he was capable of, and the inventor drew a deep 
breath and went on. "A globe six inches in diameter 
will give eight candles. The best commercial lamp 
requires three and one-half times the amoimt of energy 
per second required in this lamp." The reporter 
began to breathe again. "But the best incandescent 
lamp requires 138 foot-poimds of energy per second for 
each candle-power. The new light requires but 39.6 
foot-pounds. And therein," concluded Edison, tri- 
umphantly, "lies its value." Then he said good- by 
to the white-faced reporter, telling him to come again 
when he wanted another simple explanation ; but up to 
the present he has not taken advantage of the invitation. 


The last time that Edison acted in the capacity of 
telegraph operator was in 1896, during the Electrical 
Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace, New York. 
He had been asked if he would be willing to receive 
a proposed message to be sent around the world by 
Chauncey M. Depew. The inventor said that while 
he was perfectly willing to play operator for one night, 
he doubted his ability to do so. It was twenty-six 
years since he had tried to read a message over the wire. 
Several electricians and friends present also doubted 
his. ability to receive, and some jokingly said that they 
did not think after so many years without touching a 
key that he would be able to distinguish a dot from a 
dash. A gentleman interested in the discussion there- 
upon asked Edison if he would try his hand as an opera- 
tor in the telegraph room of the New York Journal^ 
and to this the inventor smilingly agreed. 

When he entered the room with the dozen or more 
instruments rattling off messages from all parts of 
the world, he glanced around, smiled, and said — 

"Oh, I guess I'm all right yet.'' 

A key was selected, and pen, ink, and telegraph 
blanks given to him. 

"Good man at the other end?" asked Edison, as he 
tilted the cigar in his mouth at an angle of 45 degrees. 

"Pretty fair," said the manager of the telegraph 
department, who had called up the main office and 
told the man in charge to send what he had on hand 
to a new operator. 

The instrument commenced to click, and Edison 
to make the usual cabalistic signs that nobody but a 
telegraph operator knows the meaning of. 

"It's easy to read. Good Morse," said the new 
operator. "Only afraid I cannot write as fast as I 
used to." 


Then, continuing to write with one hand, he struck 
a match and lighted the cigar that had gone out while 
he was talking. 

tfeT*+*rc •» C«u*.*.% rapt)^ Wui<uJU Id*** 


The crack operators, who expected to see the man 
who was boss of them thirty years ago "break" in 
his work, looked on as Edison wrote without a pause. 
When the signature was given, he commenced to 
repeat the message just to see how he could send. 


"Wonder if that other fellow works a typewriter? 
I guess he has got the best of it," said Edison, as he 
turned loose on his man at the other end. "That is 
the first message I have received or sent in twenty- 
six years/' he continued as he leaned back in his 
chair. "I think I could receive or send if I lived to 
be a thousand. I do not believe a man ever forgets 
it. It read just like copper-plate, but it kept me 
scratching to get it down. Now, if those fellows 
who are going to send that message around the world 
want to turn loose next Saturday night, why, I guess 
they can." 

The operators declared the exhibition between Edi- 
son and the main office manager to be "bang up" 
work for anybody. As it happened, however, Edison 
was imable to spare the time to receive Chauncey 
Depew's message. 

Senator Depew, by the way, tells an amusing story 
about Edison which I cannot refrain from quoting 
here. "Dining the exhibition at Chicago," he says, 
"Edison visited the Fair, and saw everything in the 
electrical line. One day, while down town, he hap- 
pened to see the 'shingle' of an electric-belt concern — 
a belt you put around you, and which is supposed to 
cure any ailment you happen to be troubled with. 
Well, thinking that perhaps there was something in 
the application of electricity which was new to him he 
went up to the office. A very pert young lady imme- 
diately inquired what she could do for him. 

" 'Well,' began Edison, 'I wanted to know how 
those belts worked, and I thought I might learn by 
coming up here.' 

" * Certainly,' said the young lady, taking up a 
belt. *You see the current of electricity goes from 
the copper to the zinc plate, and then ' 


"'Just a moment/ said Edison, politely, *I don't 
hear very well at times. Did you say the current went 
from the copper to the zinc plate?' 

" *I certainly did. Then, as I was saying ' 

" ' Just one moment,' interrupted Edison again. 
'Let me understand this. You say it goes from the 
copper to the zinc?' 

" * Yes, sir, it goes from the copper to the zinc' 

" * But do you know, I always thought it went from 
the zinc to the copper.' 

"'Well, it don't.' 

" 'But are you sure?' Edison asked, smiling. 

" 'Well, maybe you know more about electricity 
than I do,' snapped the girl, as she threw the belt 
down and glared at the 'Wizard.' 

"'Perhaps I do,' Edison admitted, and he turned 
and left the place." 

The incident, however, in no way ruffled his temper. 
Nothing, indeed, puts him out, and the fact that he 
possesses so even a temperament is doubtless due to 
his unfailing fund of patience. A story is told which 
aptly illustrates this trait in his character. He had 
been for some days carrjring on a series of experi- 
ments in which he used a great many open-mouthed 
tumblers. In one experiment alone he had destroyed 
over four hundred tumblers, the experiment itself 
ending in complete failure. Then one of his assist- 
ants who had been helping the inventor for many 
hours and was somewhat weary of the work, said: 
"Well, Mr. Edison, what shall we do next?" fervently 
hoping that he would suggest his going home. In- 
stead, however, Edison scratched his head for a moment, 
and then looking at the mountain of broken glass said 
slowly, "Why, I suppose the next thing to do is to 
get some more tumblers." 


Scientific visitors to the Edison laboratory are often 
astonished at the number and variety of things which 
the inventor has worked at during his life and of which 
the general public knows nothing. One distinguished 
scientist — a celebrated German ' savant — becoming 
confidential, spoke of some experiments which he had 
himself made in a direction that he supposed was 
imknown and imtried. 

"Did you try this?" inquired Edison; "and did 
you get such a result?" 

The visitor was lost in amazement on discovering 
that Edison had made similar experiments and had 
arrived at the same result. But, unlike his visitor, 
he saw that there was "nothing in it" — nothing of 
conmiercial benefit, that is — and had discarded it in 
favor of something more directly useful to the human 
race. The same visitor asked Edison to name his 
principal inventions, and with characteristic reluc- 
tance he replied: "Well, first and foremost the idea 
of the electric-lighting station; then, let me see, what 
have I invented? Oh, there was the mimeograph 
and also the electric pen, and the carbon telephone, 
and the incandescent lamp and its accessories, and 
the quadruplex telegraph, and the automatic tele- 
graph, and the phonograph, and the kinetoscope 
and — aiid — oh, I don't know, a whole lot of other 

Among the innumerable visitors to the United States 
who have desired to see Edison was Li Hung Chang, 
who, however, was disappointed in meeting the inventor. 
Almost as soon as he arrived on American soil the 
Viceroy sent for Edison's representative in New York, 
and scarcely giving the man time to breathe, the dis- 
tinguished Chinaman said — 

"Now about Edison. Where is he? How old is 


he? How long have you known him? Where and 
when did you meet him?" 

All these questions, with a great many more, came 
out in a perfect stream, and the interpreter had a hard 
job translating them without incurring his master's 
wrath. As it was he was several questions behind 
and had to miss a few in order to keep up with the 
impetuous Viceroy. The representative of the in- 
ventor replied that he had first met Edison many years 
ago on Broadway. 

"He is the inventor of the telephone, isn't he?" 
asked the Viceroy. 

"He is the inventor of the improvements which 
make it a practical machine," was the guarded reply. 

"If I want to introduce it into China, he is the man 
to see, isn't he?" asked Li excitedly. 

"Yes, he can introduce it," replied the representa- 

"I want to see Edison. Will he go to China?" 
were the next sentences, uttered with some impatience. 

"He will go there if he has work to do," calmly 
replied the much-questioned American. 

"Can you arrange a meeting between us? I want 
to see him. I must see him. He is a great man. 
Can you bring him to me?" 

"Yes, if he can be found," answered the worried 

The following morning, before five, the representa- 
tive was hurriedly sent for by Li, who wished to see 
him at his hotel. When he arrived the Viceroy re- 
ceived him while in bed and anxiously inquired if 
Edison had been found. He was told that Edison was 
at Niagara Falls, and he expressed his determination 
to go there to meet the great inventor in a couple of 
days' time. 


A week after a reporter hurried off to Orange and 
succeeded in buttonholing Edison, and inquired if he 
had had any dealings with Li Hung Chang during his 
visit. The Viceroy's anxiety to meet the inventor 
had become public. " I have not met Li Hung Chang," 
Edison replied. "He telegraphed to me here asking 
if I would meet him, but I didn't comply with his re- 
quest, as I was in the coimtry and did not care to leave 
my family alone. I have no idea what he wanted to 
see me about." 

Meanwhile, a long article had appeared in the New 
York press stating that a gigantic deal was in progress 
between Li and Edison. Millions were involved, 
and Edison was going to China to be a guest of the 
Empress. He was to be entertained with Oriental 
splendor, and Li was to act as his guide through the 
celestial country. Edison was shown the article and 
asked if it were correct. The inventor smiled. "I 
have no deal on with the Viceroy," he replied. "Nor 
do I expect to have one. We have put in big electric 
plants in Shanghai and other Chinese cities and, if 
I remember correctly, have done work for Li. That 
is all there is to this foolish story." 

So Li Hung Chang was obliged to leave America 
without seeing the man who is accessible to the hum- 
blest admirer. Probably if such a thing had happened 
in his own country he would have given orders for 
Edison's head to be brought to him if his body refused 
to accompany it. But, as has been stated before, 
Edison is no respecter of persons. He didn't want 
to see Li, and so Li didn't see him. 

There is, however, one illustrious personage whom 
Edison would greatly like to see and chat with, and 
that is King Edward, for whom he has a very real and 
sincere admiration. "He is a great man," Edison 


decTared to the writer recently, "and perhaps the best 
and wisest king that ever sat on the British throne. 
There are no 'frills' about King Edward, he is just 
as democratic as you or I, though of course there are 
certain ceremonies which he must keep up in order 
to safeguard the dignity of the Monarchy. In two 
years' time I hope to pay England a visit, and then, 
perhaps, I may have the happiness of meeting his 
Majesty. You know," he added, with a twinkle, 
"Mark Twam did." 

Mr. Edison well recollects the visit of King Edward 
to America, now nearly half a century ago. "And 
no wonder," he humorously remarked!, "for on that 
day I managed to get the biggest black eye I ever had 
in my life. It happened in this way. I was at school 
at the time, and there was bitter rivalry between our 
establishment and another school in the neighborhood. 
Well, the Prince of Wales, as he .was then, consented 
to pay our town a visit, and all the schools were to 
take part in the general welcome. We were therefore 
lined up, commanded to 'quick march,' and were 
nearing the scene of festivities when ova: rivals loomed 
in sight. We met, and an instant later the fight 
was on. I felt that things were coming my way, and 
I was not wrong, for suddenly I received a terrific 
blow in my left eye which put it entirely out of business. 
When I recovered myself our assailants had van- 
ished, order was restored, and we proceeded on our 
way. Yes," concluded Edison sadly, "I saw the 
Prince all right, but it was out of one optic only." 



As has been mentioned once before^ Edison has 
probably been interrogated on a greater number of 
subjects than any other living scientist. Directly 
a discussion begins in the press — whether of elec- 
trical, scientific, or general interest — the newspaper 
men rush off to Orange to get Edison's opinion. Very 
often the inventor declines to say anything, but should 
he happen to be in the mood to talk and the subject 
is one which has attracted his attention — he follows 
the papers with as much keenness as he does Nature's 
secrets — he will discuss it with considerable freedom. 

Fifteen years ago Edison was asked if he believed 
a ship would ever be constructed which would do the 
trip between Liverpool and New York in fpur days- 
He said that he was positive that such a vessel would 
be built and that he would live to see it. He also 
stated that the question was one of reducing the fric- 
tion between the sides of the ship and the water. Per- 
haps, he declared, some means might be found whereby 
electricity could be employed to arrive at such an end. 
He had experimented a little in this direction, but 
not much. Then Edison, with a humorous smile 
which the interviewer did not notice, suggested that a 
possible means of rendering a vessel capable of slip- 
ping through the water more easily would be by greasing 
her sides, which might be perforated so that oil would 



be slowly but constantly oozing out. He hadn't tried 
it himself, but it was an idea which had occurred to 

This suggestion was one which appealed to the 
reporter's imagination, and when he returned to his 
office he wrote an interesting account of how by merely 
oiling the sides of a vessel she might thereby double 
and even treble her speed. The article was sanely 
and reasonably written, and widely quoted both in 
the European as well as the American press, and 
Edison was credited with another remarkable "dis- 
covery." One newspaper, in a leading article heavily 
leaded, said: "It may be that the theory propoimded 
by the ingenious Mr. Edison that greasing the sides 
of ships will so diminish the resistance of the water 
as to increase their speed by one-third is a correct 
one, and if so it will be another instance of the enor- 
mous economic advantage hidden in a simple appli- 
ance lying always ready to hand, and overlooked in 
the costly and laborious search for remoter ones. 

"We can compute the millions which have been 
and still are being expended in increasing the speed 
of ships, fighting for hours and half-hours and minutes 
ever with a fervor of ingenuity which* spared no cost 
and left no pneumatic or mechanical or constructive 
resources unexplored. It will be a startling disclosure 
to naval architects and engineers if the solution of 
their problem be found, not in improved wave lines 
or tubular boilers or triple screws, but, like truth in a 
well, at the bottom of the obscure and unregarded 
grease-pot. Perhaps Mr. Edison has made the greatest 
economic discovery of the century, and, except steam, 
the greatest ever applied to navigation since the launch- 
ing of the Ark or the Argo. If it fulfil what are asserted 
to be his expectations, New York and London will be 


only four days apart, and the canying trade of the 
world will be revolutionized. At the same time the 
price of oil will be likely to go up." 

But experiments in this queer method of reducing 
the resistance of the water and enabling a vessel to 
slip through her element at treble her usual rate were 
not prosecuted with any real enthusiasm, and engineers 
and naval architects to-day still pin their faith to 
boilors and tiurbines. The foiu:-day ship, however, 
is in sight, and Edison's prophecy will doubtless be 
realized diuring the next few years. 

Fourteen years ago considerable excitement was 
caused by certain writers — who probably desired to 
"rig" the market — declaring that aluminium was to 
be the metal of the future. There was nothing that 
this mineral would not be useful for, and its strength 
and cheapness would render it a suitable material for 
either a table ornament or a battle-ship. Edison 
was again asked for his opinion on the question, and he 
was very emphatic in stating that "there was nothing 
to it." He affirmed that as a metal it was practically 
useless, and for machinery or construction one might 
just as well employ lead. Its extreme lightness would 
render it a suitable material for making ornaments, 
and that would be all. To be of any use for other 
things it must be alloyed with another metal — pref- 
erably copper. The coming metal, Edison thought, 
was nickel steel — steel with a five per cent addition 
of nickel. It would make splendid armor plates, 
for, imlike pm:e steel, it will not crack and is very diffi- 
cult to bore. 

"A burglar-proof safe," Edison fmlher stated, 
while on the subject of metals and their qualities, "is 
as impossible to make as an unsinkable boat. You 
can make a safe of nickel steel which you may not 


be able to bore or crack, but there is no safe that is 
not at the mercy of a dynamite cartridge. A burglar 
can carry in his pocket power sufl&cient to break open 
a dozen safes. An absolutely bmrglar-proof safe is 
as difficult to make as perpetual motion is to find, for 
as soon as a material is invented which will resist 
the most powerful explosive known, chemists go to 
work and evolve some other substance which will 
destroy it. That is the whole history of armor- 
plating and big gims." 

Edison has absolute faith in wireless telegraphy, and 
he believes that the man who will make it a success 
is Marconi. Two or three years ago Edison made a 
statement regarding wireless which is well worth re- 
calling, for he indorsed that statement in June, 1907. 
*'I think," he said, "Marconi will work across the 
Atlantic commercially. He will send messages aroimd 
the world by repeating stations, but he will not do it 
in one jump. Great imdertakings are not completed 
in jumps. The discovery of any fundamental princi- 
ple, of course, always is a jump, but the working out 
of the details is another matter which involves labori- 
ous work in the field of experiment, especially if it is 
to be worked on commercial lines. 

"Wireless is going to be the telegraph of the sea. 
The time will come when any one on the maritime 
exchange can send out a wireless message and catch 
any vessel afloat in any part of the world and change 
her routing. I don't think so much about the outlook 
for the wireless system on land. That field is practi- 
cally occupied. But the ocean field is open. I think 
it will be only a question of a few years before wireless 
is developed to a point where it will be a practical and 
important factor in the industrial world." 

Readers will perhaps remember how many years ago 


the plague of rabbits in Australia became so great that 
the Australian government offered a big reward to any 
one who would suggest a means of dealing successfully 
with the pest. A certain American who had a desire 
to claim the reward but didn't quite see how he was 
going to do it, conceived the idea of calling upon 
Edison to get a few points which might be useful. 
Edison received the gentleman very courteously, and 
having learned the object of his visit did not "turn 
him down" immediately, but talked on the subject, 
and suggested several simple methods by which the 
rabbits in Australia might be got rid of. He did not 
think his visitor's idea of sowing fields of carrots and 
then injecting a poison into the vegetable was quite 
practical; neither did he believe the diflSculty was to 
be overcome by inoculating a number of the rabbits 
and then letting them loose among their imsuspecting 
companions. "What do you think," said Edison, "of 
stringing loaded wires aroimd the fields, so that when 
the rabbits bumped against them the circuit would be 
complete and the animals would be eletrocuted? It 
might be done." The visitor was excited over the sug- 
gestion. "Why," he said with the greatest enthusiasm, 
"we might hang carrots and lettuce and other rabbit 
food on these lines, and the creatures would be certain 
to receive shocks which would kill them by thousands." 
He asked if it would be possible to electrify the barbed 
wire which was much used in Australia, and when 
Edison declared that it might be done the visitor left 
the laboratory all aglow with the possibilities of such a 
gigantic scheme. Whether he made any use of the in- 
formation obtained from the inventor never transpired, 
but Edison rather thinks that he must have "com- 
pleted the circuit" himself while experimenting, for he 
heard no more of his inventive friend. 


Edison has experimented long and successfully with 
the X-ray machine, and when it was a nine days' won- 
der he received many letters from unknown correspond- 
ents asking if the Roentgen discovery could not be 
applied in ways which were certainly the reverse of 
legitimate. Among these communications was a mis- 
sive from a man living in what is known in American 
parlance as a "hat" town in the oil regions of Penn- 
sylvania. The letter amused Mr. Edison very much at 
the time, and he put it away with a few other curiosities 
which had been delivered at his laboratory through 
the medium of the mails. The letter was addressed to 
Menlo Park, and had been forwarded on to Orange. 
The following is a copy of this curious document : 

Mr. Thomas A. Edison, Menlo Park, N.J. 

"Dear Sir, — I write you to know if you can make 
me an X-ray apparatus for playing against faro bank? 
I would like to have it so I can wear it on my body, 
and have it attached to spectacles or goggles so I 
can tell the second card of a deck of playing cards 
turned face up. If you will make it for me let me 
know what it will cost. If I make a success out of 
it I will pay you five thousand dollars extra in one 
year. Please keep this to yourself. If you cannot 
make it will you be kind enough to give me Professor 
Roentgen's address? Please let me hear from you. 

"Yoiurs truly, 

Edison has received many other letters almost as 
curious, but he declares that that was the first and 
only occasion upon which he was asked to assist a 
gambler in beating faro banks. He would have liked 


very much to have sent for the imaginative card- 
shajper and administered a lectiure, but thought it 
better to ignore his unique request. Should the smart 
Pennsylvanian have repented his ways it will, perhaps, 
be some satisfaction to him to see his letter published 
here and to learn why it was that he received no reply 
to his commimication. 

When America was engaged with her war with 
Spain, Edison was consulted by many reporters, hot 
on the trail of "copy," who desired to know his views 
on the outcome of the disagreement. One of them 
asked the inventor his opinion regarding the possibility 
of New York being "taken," and Edison declared that 
it would be more difficult for a fleet of war-ships to 
enter New York harbor than it would be for a dozen 
fishing boats to capture Gibraltar. He also made a 
statement to the effect that he believed the uses of 
huge war-vessels were growing less, and that torpedo- 
boats and torpedo-destroyers were the great thing. 
Other celebrities were interviewed regarding the best 
means of annihilating an enemy, among these being 
Nikola Tesla, General Miles, and Russell Sage, which 
emboldened a writer, who concealed his identity under 
the name of "The Farceur," to write a play, which he 
called, " Clank — Clank, the Cranks are Clanking," 
and published in Taivn Topics. The play was never 
performed or even put into rehearsal, though it was 
received with much favor and greatly amused the 
celebrities who figiured in it. The author stated that it 
was a realistic representation of "War as it is carried 
on by high Privates in the Rear Ranks," and the open- 
ing "business" and chorus are well worth quoting: 

"Clank — Clank, the Cranks are Clanking 

" (The scene is the Battery. All the cranks are as- 
sembled, and there is much excitement. Each one 

fflS OPINIONS 341 

is preparing to annihilate Spain and free Cuba at a 
moment's notice. All the people who in time of peace 
prepare for war, and who never felt a woimd, are there 
with their inventions. Rabid Jingoes are gnawing all 
the bark off the trees. General Miles is posing on a 
pedestal as a statue of Mars. Edison is engaged in 
charging the lobsters in the Aquarium with electricity. 
Nikola Tesla has his ear to the groimd, and is talking 
through the earth to Li Hung Chang. The bicycle 
squad is getting ready to charge down the bay on 
their wheels. Numerous war balloons are being 
rapidly filled with gas by speech-makers, while the sky 
takes on a hxiid hue, and a flaming Cabbage Head, 
rampant, appears in the heavens in the direction of 

"Chorus of Ifweniors 

"We've each a great invention 

That we'd bring to your attention. 
And we guarantee 'twiU knock the Spaniards stiff; 

It will shock 'em and surprise 'em, 

It will simply paralyze 'em. 
It will blow 'em all to purgatory — if — 

"Hit works all right — 
If the fuse will light — 
If you put it underneath 'em when the moon 

shines bright — 
If they stand just so — 
If the wind don't blow — 
If it don't explode and kill you accidentally, 

you know! 

"NoVs the time to place reliance 
On the wonders of our science. 
And our country's foe we'll settie in a jiff; 
Our plans are all perfected. 


And it's generally expected 
Our invention will annihilate 'em — IF — 

"IF it works all right, &c 

{At this moment Mr. Edison rushes to the front waving 
his arms.) 

" Mr. Edison : * Hooray 1 Victory is ours ! ' 
"The Crowd (breathlessly) : 'How now, O Wizard?' 
"Mr. Edison (proudly): *It is done! I have filled 
these lobsters so full of electricity that they buzz when 
they move. When the Spanish war-ships come in sight 
I will turn 'em loose in the bay, and then you'll see 
what you will see. These lobsters wUl establish a cur- 
rent with a line of electric eels that I have stationed 
at Sandy Hook, and the haughty hidalgos will get a 
shock that will make 'em look like twenty-nine cents 
marked down from forty.' 
"The Crowd: 'Hooray 1 Cuba K6r«/' 
"Mr. Tesla (interrupting the demonstration): 'That 
scheme won't do at all. Now, I have a fan here that 
is charged with four billion volts of Franklin's best 
brand of bottled lightning, and when this fan gets fan- 
ning the results are astounding. Not ten minutes ago 
I fanned a fly from off Emperor William's nose, and 
fluted the whiskers of the King of Siam. Now, when 
the Spaniards come up the bay I'll just climb a tree and 
pour a broadside of vibrations at 'em. Say, I'll fan 
'em off the earth in not more than a minute and a 
"The Crowd: 'Hooroo! Cuba/ffcre/'" 

Edison laughed so heartily when he read the play 
that the author himself would have been satisfied if he 
could have seen him. However, he has long since be- 
come used to appearing in novels and plays, and at 


one time even seriously thought of writing a work of 
fiction in conjunction with George Parsons Lathrop, 
Edison was to furnish the electrical suggestions and 
Lathrop the plot. The writing was to be the work of 
both. The inventor was very enthusiastic at first, and 
Lathrop had a number of interviews with him, and 
Edison began to turn out suggestions quicker than the 
novelist could take them down. But after half a dozen 
of these "collaboration" interviews Edison's enthusiasm 
cooled very considerably. Lathrop was as keen on the 
novel as before, and had managed to collect from the 
inventor sufficient material to take him halfway through 
the book, when his collaborator met him one day with 
a bit of a frown on his smooth brow, and declared that 
he would have nothing more to do with the novel. He 
was very tired of the whole thing. He would rather 
invent a dozen useful things, including a mechanical 
novelist who would turn out works of fiction when the 
machinery was set in motion, than go any further with 
the electrical novel. He solemnly declared that there 
was no fiction in electricity, and he advised Lathrop 
to turn his attention to something else, which Lathrop, 
somewhat crestfallen, agreed to do. And that was the 
first and last incursion the inventor made into the 
realms of fiction. 

Edison has on more than one occasion been inter- 
rogated regarding the writing of his autobiography, 
and questioned as to the reason why he has not put 
out such a work. In conversation there is no man 
more brilliant than Edison, and many of his associates 
have declared that when interested in a subject or 
describing the results, perhaps, of some experiments of 
which the general public knows nothing, he uses 
language which is not only forceful but dramatic. It 
seems a thousand pities that on such occasions there 


should not have been some one by — some Boswell, 
perhaps — to treasure and preserve such conversa- 
tions. And could Edison write his life as he talks 
every day in his laboratory the result would be a volume 
equal to any biography or autobiography yet published. 
But this, it has been affirmed, he cannot do. It is 
said, though Edison has not verified this, that more 
than once he has taken pen in hand with the notion of 
writing the story of his life. " But when he does this," 
says an anonymous writer, ''a curious thing happens. 
He becomes strangely self-conscious, and the resulting 
narrative — instead of being easy, flowing, and full of 
snap and vigor — is hard, formal, and unsatisfying. 
He seems, in fact, to be seized by a sort of stage fright, 
which prevents him from doing his best, exactly as a 
man who, sitting in private conversation, can talk in- 
telligently and well by the hour, is sometimes forced to 
the baldest commonplaces the moment he gets upon 
his feet. This mental condition, by the way, is not 
peculiar to Edison. There are many men of great 
ability who seem mentally paralyzed the moment an 
attempt is made to direct their thoughts down the 
point of a pen in a thin stream of ink." 

It is estimated that if ever)rthing that has ever been 
written and published about Edison were collected 
and republished in book form it would make a library 
of a thousand volumes — each volume containing an 
average of a hundred thousand words. And of these 
stories which would go to the making of such a library 
a very small proportion only would be found to have 
any real authority for their being. It is generally be- 
lieved, for instance, by those outside the Edison labora- 
tory that the inventor forgot his wedding day, or, rather, 
forgot that he had been married after the ceremony was 
performed. The story refers to his first marriage, and 


the writer asked Edison if the facts were as narrated. 
"It was nothing but a newspaper story," Edison re- 
plied, "got up by an imaginative newspaper man who 
knew that I was a bit absent-minded. I never forgot 
that I had been married. In fact, I don't believe any 
man would forget such an event imless he wanted to. 
But perhaps there was something to account for the 
story, and I think it must have been this. 

"The day I was married a consignment of stock 
tickers had been returned to the factory as being im- 
perfect, and I had a desire to find out what was wrong 
and to put the machines right. An hour or so after 
the marriage ceremony had been performed I thought 
of these tickers, and when my wife and I had re- 
tiuned home I mentioned them to her and explained 
that I would like to go to the factory to see what was 
the matter with them. She agreed at once, and I 
went down, where I found Bachelor, my assistant, 
hard at work trying to remedy the defect. We both 
monkeyed about with them, and finally after an hour 
or two we put them to rights, and I went home again. 
But as to forgetting that I was married, that's all non- 
sense, and both I and my wife laughed at the story, 
though when I began to come across it almost every 
other week it began to get tedious. It was one of 
those made-up stories which stick, and I suppose I 
shall always be spoken of as the man who forgot his 
wife an hour after he was married." 

Another absurd story which gained currency some 
years ago, and is still flourishing very healthily, is one 
connected with the invention of the incandescent 
electric-light system. This story for about the thou- 
sandth time made its appearance in an English pub- 
lication as late as 1907, and once more described how 
Edison invented the incandescent lamp in order to be 


revenged on the gas companies. His anger had been 
aroused by his gas being peremptorily cut off by a 
hard-hearted collector who wanted his bill paid. " That 
night/' Edison is reported to have said, "as I sat in 
the darkness I swore I would make an electric light 
that would ruin the gas companies." This story always 
aimoys Edison when his eye lights upon it — as it does 
every month or so — for he is the last man in the world 
who would seek to revenge himself on any one, let 
alone the man who merely demanded his rights. The 
story deserves by now to die a natural death — it is 
quite old enough. 

Some years ago, when the four leading Edison com- 
panies consolidated into one General Electric Company, 
with a capital of twelve million dollars, a good deal 
was written about the man who had been the instru- 
ment by which such a great business enterprise was 
possible. Edison's "twelve-million-dollar brain" be- 
came a saying, and lessons were drawn anent the value 
of first-dass brains. "Here," said one writer, whose 
words are well worth preserving and thinking over, "is 
a business aggregation that springs from the wits of one 
man. A few years ago Thomas Edison was a poor 
and obscure telegraph operator. To-day, by devising 
machinery of advantage to the human race, he is a 
millionaire and the means by which others acquire 
immense wealth. Yet no one is injured. The new 
fortunes come from traits of observation and mechani- 
cal wit that lay hid in the brain of one poor wise man. 
There are mines of the mind that are richer than any 
which the geologist finds in the mountains, and more 
precious gems lie hidden there than can be dug from 
the rocks or washed from the streams of the wilder- 
ness." This truism might be instilled in the mind of 
every growing youth who desires to gain a name and 


fortune by the cultivation of his brains. He may not 
be an Edison, and he may not possess genius, but per- 
severance wiU carry him a long way on the road to 
success. As a matter of fact, Edison does not think 
a great deal of so-called "genius." "Genius," says 
some wise man, "is an infinite capacity for taking 
pains," but Edison goes one better when he says: 
"Genius is two per cent inspiration and ninety-eight I 
per cent perspiration." • And let the man who believes 
that he is no "genius," or even particularly clever, 
take this wise remark to heart and he will find that 
Edison is not far wrong in his belief that it is hard 
work that tells and the virtue that will eventually land 
one on the topmost rung of Fortune's ladder. 

Edison has an excellent ear for music, and the state- 
ment which one frequently sees made that he has a 
dislike to the phonograph and never listens to it is 
quite wrong. At one time he "passed" every record 
made in the Orange laboratory, and would mark them 
"Good," "Fair," "Bad," or "Very Bad," as he thought 
fit, in order to classify them for the trade. These dis- 
tinctions, of course, did not refer to the quality of the 
record, but rather to the style of composition. Some 
of the "pieces" which he disliked most often turned 
out to be the very ones which the public liked best, 
and it became a kind of standing joke that when 
Edison ticketed a record "Very Bad" the factory had 
to work overtime in order to supply the demand. 

When all records were made at the Edison laboratory 
(now they are made in New York), singers, reciters, 
and instrumentalists would come down from the city 
and give their performances in Edison's library. So 
long as the "talking-machine" was something of a 
novelty, the fees demanded by these artistes were not 
very heavy, but later on the bills for "professional 


phonographic services" swelled considerably, the '' ser- 
vices" of some singers being almost prohibitive. Edison 
was generally present when the records were made, 
and it surprised him to find that not infrequently the 
most capable singers made the poorest records. On 
more than one occasion when famous soloists had 
been engaged the records, when tested, proved utterly 
worthless. These performers had not the knack of 
singing into a phonograph, and had to go through 
considerable training before becoming successes in 
the phonograph line. Other singers have visited the 
laboratory, whose names were certainly not ''house- 
hold words," and who demanded but modest fees, yet 
their records have been among the best ever made. 
In other words, one must have a regular '' phonographic 
voice" in order to make a good record, and if a singer 
is denied this then he or she must cultivate it — which 
it is quite possible to do. High sopranos are less 
successful on the phonograph than contraltos, while 
the violin and other thin, high-toned instruments do 
not sound so well as double basses, 'cellos, and harps. 
In men's voices baritones and basses reproduce better 
than tenors as a general rule, though there is no man 
living who makes a finer record than Bond. 

Edison, by the way, has a distinct objection to plac- 
ing his own voice on record, and on two occasions 
only has he been persuaded to do so. When perfect- 
ing the phonograph he had, of course, to talk into 
the machine, but the records were afterwards scraped 
or destroyed. He says he has no desire to see ma- 
chines adorned with notices announcing that by putting 
a penny in the slot you may ''Hear Edison Talk." 
Once he sent his agent, who was in London, a " phono- 
gram," and he also said a few words in a phonograph 
for a young man in whom he was very much interested. 


Apart from these two, however, there is no record of 
Edison's voice in existence. He has been approached 
by numberless enterprising managers, who have offered 
him almost any sum if he would relate to the phono- 
graph the story of how he created it, but to all such 
requests he has turned a deaf ear. And here it may 
be remarked that the statement so frequently made 
that when distinguished visitors call upon Edison at the 
laboratory they are requested to put their voices on 
record is a wrong one. There is no phonograph kept 
for this purpose. The only request made to visitors 
is that they shall sign their names in the '* Visitors' 
Book" — a niunber of which may be seen on the 
shelves of the library. 

Edison regards the art of inventing very much in 
the light of a profession which may be "learned" 
almost as successfully as soldiering, or acting, or even 
"doctoring." Thousands of men, he thinks, might 
have become inventors had they but cultivated their 
ideas, for the creative germ lies hidden in most brains. 
Observation is one of the greatest assets in successful 
inventing, and the man who sees what is wanted and 
then provides it is the one who makes good. Ideas 
increase as they are cultivated, and the brain must be 
exercised like any other part of the body, for the more 
one works that mysterious ''gray matter" the more 
good wUl one get out of it. As a rule, authors who 
write a great deal improve their "style," and in the 
same way the more one cultivates ideas the more 
readily wUl ideas come and the better wUl be their 
quality. Some inventors are "bom," of course, but a 
greater number are "made," and the man who says he 
is entirely lacking in ideas is generaUy the man who is 
too lazy to cultivate them. 

Edison is now engaged on what he considers the 


greatest problem of all — the generation of electricity 
direct from coal. The subject has occupied his atten- 
tion for many years, and now that he has practically 
laid aside his work as a commercial inventor he is 
devoting all his time to the imravelling of this fascinat- 
ing mystery. He has made some progress towards 
success, and has been enabled to get a little energy 
direct from coal, but, unfortunately, it has no great 
force. At present, as every one knows, electricity re- 
quires another power to generate it, and while this is 
so it cannot become the motor of the world. But 
when electricity is generated direct then steam will be- 
come obsolete, and the newer power will reign. 

Of the force hidden in coal about 15 per cent only 
is available, the other 85 per cent being wasted. That 
is why it requires so many hundreds of tons of coal to 
propel a liner across the Atlantic. When the problem 
of generating electricity direct is solved, then two or 
three tons of coal only will be needed for the same 
purpose. Edison has been experimenting on these lines 
with his customary enthusiasm and determination for 
twenty years without any really satisfactory results, but 
he is not discouraged. His investigations have been 
sufficiently productive of good to spur him on, and 
the problem is one which he will never relinquish as 
long as life lasts. Possibly, he declares with great 
cheerfulness, it may not be his good fortime to dis- 
cover the right means of thus obtaining the true force, 
and if this should be so, then he feels perfectly con- 
vinced the problem will be solved by some one else. 
Many other scientists are also working on the question, 
and Edison would not be surprised any day to learn 
that it had been solved by some comparatively im- 
known man. Should such an event happen, then 
Edison would be among the first to acknowledge him 
as the greatest inventor of all times. 


A, the letter, as pronounced back- 
ward and forward on phono- 
graph, i5a-iS3- 

Abaent-mindedneas, Edison's, 289, 

301-303, 344-345- 

Accumulators in storage batteries, 
use of cobalt for, si5~ai6. 

Acheson, assistant of Edison's, 341. 

Adams, Milton, 53, 56, 57-60. 

Albert Medal, the, 385. 

Aldermen, New York, visit of, to 
Menlo Park, 113, zzS-xiq. 

Aluminiiun, Edison on uselessness 
of, 33^- 

Alumni Association telephone din- 
ner, 93. 

Anderson, A. A., portrait of Edison 
by, 323. 

Anderson, Captain H. M., 56. 

Animals, experimental electzxxni- 
tion of, 204-206. 

Annealing of metals, 131-132. 

Astronomy, invention connected 
with, 184. 

Autobiography, question of Edi- 
son's, 343-344. 

Autographic telegraph, the, 69-70. 

"Automatic Electric Baby Tender," 


Automatic telegraph, the, 68-69. 

Automobile, perfected storage bat- 
tery for, 2x6-217; Edison fam- 
ily's expert use of the, 288. 


Baby, and the phonograph, 145- 
Z47; interest in the Edison, 

Bach, Dr., quoted, 83-84. 

Bachelor, Charles, 69, 104, 106, 239, 
269, 303. 345; quoted, 69; 

assists Edison at Saratoga 
lecture, 78-81; puts first fila- 
ment into an incandescent 
lamp, Z07; Edison's tribute 
to, X07. 

Bachman, Robert A., 233. 

Baden, Grand Duke of, 276. 

Baker, manager of Memphis office 
Western Union Telegraph Com- 
pany, 52. 

Bamboo, discovery of suitability of, 
for use in incandescent lamp, 
96, 108; the search for the 
right kind of, X0&-X09, 252. 

Banquet, a "long-distance," 93. 

Banquets to Edison. Su Dizmers. 

Barker, Professor, 77-78, 94. 

Battle, a kinetoscopic, at Orange, 


Beebe, Grant, 93. 

Beecher, H. W., phonograph record 

by, Z56. 
Bell, Alexander Graham, 73-75, 

Bell Telephone Company organized, 

Bergmann, Sigmund, zz5, 240, 306. 
Bijou Theatre, Boston, the first to 

use electric lighting, z2o-z2z. 
"Bingen on the Rhine" on the 

phonograph, z5z. 
Bbhop, Mr., quoted, 8^89. 
Bismarck, phonograph record by, 

Blue Mountain House the first 

hotel lighted by electricity, Z2z. 
Boehzzi, Ludwig K., 240. 
Book-keeping, Edison's distrust of, 


Bordiga, A., statue by^, 223. 

Borton, Professor, 77. 

Boston, Edison a telegrapher, ex- 
perimenter, and lecturer izi, 




Bounel, Chules, 72-73. 

Bridge, the magnetic, x86. 

Brown, Harold P., aoj, 304, 906. 

Browning, phonograph zecoxxl by, 

Buddhists and the phonogri^, 

Bugs, in electrical parlance, 87, 

Buildings, first illuminated by elec- 
tric light, x3o-zax; use of 
■olid concrete in construction 

<rf. 174-175. 
Byron, Joseph, 3x4. 

Callahan, Edison's first assistant, 63. 

Calves, electrocution of, 205. 

Capital punishment, EcUson's views 
on, a 1 2. 

Carbon-button transmitter, 74, 8z. 

Carbon rheostat, 185. 

Carman, foreman for Edison, 138. 

Cats, phonographic study of, X59- 

Cement, manufacture of, by Edi- 
son, X7X-X74. 

Centennial Exhibition, the first 
practical telephone exhibited 
at, 8x. 

Central station in New York, 1x4- 


Chalk battery, the, z86. 

Chalk telephone receiver, 178. 

Chandler, Colonel A. B., 258, 259- 

Chemical telephone, the, 75. 

Christie, George, 43. 

Church, the ^at, lighted by elec- 
tricity, X20. 

Churches, telephones in, 93. 

Cigarette-smoking, Edison on, 3x8- 

Cincinnati, Edison in, 48-50. 
City Temple, London, first church 

lighted by electricity, x2o. 
''Qank— Clank, the Cranks," etc., 

Qarke, Charles L., 239. 
Coal, generation of electricity direct 

from, 350. 

Cobalt, use of, in storage battery, 

Cockran, W. Bourke, defence of 
Kemmler by, 206; cross- 
examines Edison, 209, 337- 

Columbia, first steam vessel lighted 
by electricity, X2x-X22. 

Concicte, houses built of, X74-X75. 

Condenser tdephone, the, 75. 

Condensers in storage battery, mate- 
rial for, 2x5-2x6. 

Conly, Superintendent, 30 x. 

Cortlandt Street telephone office, 

Coster and the phonograph, X62- 

Cotton filament, the carbonized, 
discovered, X05-X06, xxo. 

Count, Edison as a, 277, 285-286. 

Crystal Palace exhibition of phono- 
graph, X53-X56. 

Curtis, William S., 93. 

Dally, Qarenoe T., with X-ray 

machine at Buffalo, 229-230; 

death of, from effect of X-rays, 

Dally, E., 229. 

Day books, Edison's, 249-953. 
Deafness, Edison's, 49, 290-292. 
Decorations be^wed on Edison, 

Depew, Chauncey M., 276, 326; 

story about Edison by, 328- 

Didwns, Edison's liking for, 282. 

Dickson, W. K. L., vii ; quoted, 
50-51. 57-60, 69; works on 
kinetoscope with Edison , x66 ; 
photographs Pope Leo Xm., 
X 67-168; as an assistant in 
Orange laboratory, 24 x. 

Dinner, given by American In- 
stitute of Electrical Engineers 
(X904), 954-259; Magnetic 
Qub (X905), 259-260; Gen- 
eral Electric Outing Qub, at 
Menlo Park, 260-963; the 
Figaro, in Paris, 973; of 



French Society of Civil En- 
gineers on the Eiffel Tower, 
375; at HeidelbeiiB, 376-977. 

Discovery, distinction between in- 
vention and, 177. 

Dog, electrocution of a, 204-305. 

Draper, John W., 139-130. 

Dreyfus, Louis, experiment by, 338. 

Duplex telegraph, invention of, 66; 
description of, 67-68. 

Dyer, Frank L., vii, 334-335. 

I^namite, Edison's handling of, 

Dynamos, z86. . 


Edison, Charles, son of Edison, 388, 

Edison, Madeljm, daughter, 344, 
383, 389. 

Edison, Marion, daughter, 373, 975. 

Edison, Nancy Elliot, mother, 3, 
5-8, II-I3, 13-14. 

Edison, Samuel, father, z-3, 5, xo, 

Edison, Theodore, son, 388, 389. 

Edison, Thomas Alva, career of — 
Birth and parentage, 1-3; first 
seven years, spent at Milan, 
O., 5-9; at school, 6-7; re- 
moval to Port Huron, Mich., 
zo; life there, xz-14; receives 
most of his instruction from his 
mother, zi; early reading of, 
Z3; at eleven becomes news 
agent and candy vender on 
Grand Trunk Ry., Z4-X5; 
laboratory and printing office 
on train, 15-16; publishes the 
Weekly Herald, 17-39; second 
paper, Paul Pry, 30; learns 
telegraphy at fifteen, 38-39; 
nigM operator at Port Huron, 
39-43; operator at Samia, 
43-44; in Western Union 
office at Port Huron, 44; at 
Stratford, Canada, 44-^5; op- 
erator at Indianapolis (1864- 
1865), 45-47; leaves Indian- 
apolis and goes from dty to 
city, 48; in Cincinnati, 48-50; 

in Memphis, 50-53 ; in Boston, 
53-61; goes to New York, 61- 
63 ; experience with Law Gold 
Indicator and engagement at 
$300 a month, 63-63 ; improves 
ticker and sells improvement 
for $40,000, 63-64; gains con- 
fidence of Western Union 
Telegraph Co., 66; resigns 
management of Gold IncQcator 
and opens factory at Newark, 
N.J., 66; manufactures im- 
proved ticker and invents 
duplex telegraph, 66-67; ^- 
vents quadruplex telegraph, 68; 
sextuplex telegraph, 68, 71; 
places Newark factory in charge 
of manager and settles at Menlo 
Park, 71-73; called "Wizard 
of Menlo Park," 71-73, 87; 
becomes interested in telephone 
and invents carbon transmitter, 
74; compromises with Alex- 
ander Graham Bell after litiga- 
tion, 74; further telephone 
appliances devised by, 75; in- 
vents incandescent dUctric 
Ught, 94-113; establishes cen- 
tral station in New York, 113- 
Z18; experiments with plati- 
num wire, 136-133; invents the 
phonograph, 134-138; invents 
the kinetoscope, 165; masters 
photographic art in connection 
with last invention, 166; in- 
vents ore separator, 169-170; 
financial failure of ore-separat- 
ing scheme, 170-171; manu- 
facture of cement, 171-174; 
houses built of solid concrete, 
z 74-1 75; wu* machine stories, 
193-303 ; connection with elec- 
trocution, 303-304; a witness 
in Kemmler case, 306-309, 
337-338; at Paris Exposition, 
373-376; in Heidelberg, 376- 
377; in Italy, 377; in London, 
377-378; home life of, at 
LleweUjm Park, 379-389; wife 
and family of, 388-389. 
Characteristics of — Reading hab- 
its, 13, 69, 383; "curious but 



Edison, T. A.-^ConHmtsd 

lovable" as a hay, z6; careless- 
ncss in dress, i6, 50, 53, 57, 
S90, 393-395; "a good boy" 
and "a smart joungster," a8; 
skill and quickness in grappling 
with a difficulty, 49-43, 62-63 ; 
his deafness, 49, 290-292; 
handwriting, 51-52, 53; a 
rapid operator, 52; modesty 
axid retirement of, 6z, 147, 214, 
330; description of, at Sara- 
toga lecture, 80-81 ; newspaper 
tales of, 87-88; Mr. Bishop's 
description of, 88-89; ^^ 1^^ 
man, 89; inezhaustiUe energy, 
126; sleeping habits, 137, 177, 
224, 241, 297-298, 303; dis- 
like of lionizing, 147, 254; two 
pre&minent qualifications as 
an inventor, 177; patience of, 
'77i 339; never boasts, but 
lets perfected product speak for 
itself, 214; as a reader of 
foreign languages, 222; eating 
habits, 223, 383, 289; not 
rapid at figures, 237; as a 
smoker, 243, 289, 296; treat- 
ment of workpeople, 243-244, 
300-30Z; musical tastes, 282, 
347; absent-mindedness, 289, 
301-303, 344-345; control of 
temper, 292-293; drinking 
habits, 295-396; eminently 
practical, 298-300; does not 
care for wealth, 300; keenness 
of memory, 304-305; memory 
for faces, 305-306; as a writer, 
Inventions by — Vote-recording 
machine, 53-54; improvement 
of Gold and Stock Indicator 
("ticker"), 63-64; duplex tele- 
graph, 66-67 ; quadruplez tele- 
graph, 68; seztuplez telegraph, 
68, 71; automatic telegraph, 
68-69; harmonic multiplex 
telegraph and autographic 
telegraph, 69-70; carbon tele- 
phone transmitter, 74; numer- 
ous telephone appUances, 75; 
fuse wire, z 18-1x9; phono- 

graph, Z34 ff.; kinetoaoope, 
165-167; magnetic ore sep- 
arator, Z69-170; ore-milling 
machinery — crushers, pulver- 
isers, conveyers, and presses, 
170-171 ; cement formula, 171- 
174 ; concrete houses, z 74-z 75 ; 
long list of lesser inventions, 
Z76 ff.; motograph, z8o; elec- 
tric pen, z8o-i8z; mimeo- 
graph, Z8Z-Z82; "grasshopper 
telegraph," 182-Z83; mega- 
phone, X83-Z84; phonomotor, 
Z84; tasimeter, Z84-185; odor- 
oscope, 185; microphone, mag- 
netic bridge, etheroBCope, 
"dead beat" galvanometer, 
etc., 186; fake, ascribed to, 
186-190; submarine torpedo- 
boat, operated by dectridty, 
Z92-Z93; storage battexy, a Z3- 

Opinions of, on — Work, Z4, 363, 
347; telephoning across the 
sea, 84-85; patents, 133, 336- 
337; possibilities of the phono- 
graph, Z4Z-Z43; phonographic 
record of Napoleon's voice, 
Z56-Z57; combined use of 
kinetoscope and phonograph, 
Z65-Z66; "discovery" and " in- 
vention," Z77; wireless teleg- 
raphy, x83, 337; Eogland and 
her wars, Z98; use of elec- 
tricity in executions, 304, sis; 
capital punishment, 306, 313; 
storage battery for vehicular 

• use, 316-3x7; success and its 
achievement, 363 ; banquets^ 
363, 376; EngUsh beer, 377; 
electricity in London under- 
ground railways, 377-378; 
dress, 393-395 ; temperance 
and total abstinence, 395-396; 
worrying, 30 x, 330; dgarette- 
smoking, 3x8-3x9; newspa- 
pers, 330-33 x; book-keeping, 
33X-333; King Edward VII., 
33»-333; four-day ships be- 
tween New York and Liver- 
pool, 334; aluminium, 336; 
nickel steel, 336-337; battle- 



ships and torpedo-boats, 340; 
genius, 347; recording his 
voice for phonographic repro- 
duction, 348; the art of invent- 
ing, 349- 
Reminiscences of — Attempt to 
hatch goose eggs in person, 9; 
concoction for enabling hired 
girl to fly, 9; Paul Pry per- 
sonal and its penalty, 30; 
peanut trick and its cure, 30- 
31; the dandies and the train- 
Wi 3^-34; the 9.30 retiring 
niie and its remedy, 34-36; 
the cow and the telegraph 
^"^>3^37; the exacting train- 
despatcher and the young op- 
erator, 390.; remedies break in 
telegraph line at Port Huron, 43 ; 
responsible for possible train 
wreck at Sarnia, 43-44; swin- 
dled by Western Union man- 
ager at Port Huron, 44; nearly 
shot as a thief by policeman, 
4^-49; mechanical work of 
tdegraph operating illustrated 
by story connected with shoot- 
ing of Lincoln, 49-50; experi- 
ence at Memphis with rapid 
St. Louis operator, 50-51; a 
cockroach exterminator, 55- 
56; running to breakfast to 
save time, 56^ a thirty-dollar 
suit and its ruin, 57 ; successful 
but dangerous home-made gun- 
cotton, 57; the mark-down 
sale of stockings, 57-58; first 
lecture, before young ladies' 
school, 58-60; Law Gold In- 
dicator episode, 63-63; locat- 
ing a break in the New York- 
Albany telegraph line, 65-66; 
cashing a $40,000 check, 64; 
the Saratoga lecture, 77-81; 
originates the expression 
"HeUol" 85-86; coins word 
"filament," 86; the phono- 
graph bet, X38; the baby and 
the phonograph, 145-146; 
phonograph jokes, 151-1 5a; 
the interview anent war ma- 
chines and its results, 193-198; 

the troublesome mim'sters and 
the explosives, aoo-aoz; other 
unwelcome visitors, aox-aoa; 
the martyr to insomnia, and 
his cure, aa4; computation by 
proJty in Kemmler case, 337- 
338; support of a mistaken 
assistant before board of in- 
quiry, a4a; the fake dgars, 
343-344; the Automatic Elec- 
tric Baby Tender, 344-346; 
the new office boy, 347-348; 
remarks on "hustling," 363; 
Figaro story and American 
paper's parody, 374-375; Pari- 
sian experiences, 376; Count 
and Countess Edison, 377; 
"The Count of Monte Cristo," 
381 ; the degrees of the Legion 
of Honor, 386; the advantages 
of being deaf, 391; "Ask him 
to take a drink," 393; forget- 
ting his name, 303; story of 
the uneaten breakfast, 303- 
303; incandescent lamp and 
pickle fork Incident, 307-309; 
the unscientific journalist, 309- 
31 z; the religious lady inter- 
viewer, 3H-313; a novel con- 
tribution box, 313; "Never 
watch the dock, my boy," 318; 
dgarette-smoking story, 318- 
3x9; the book-keeper who 
figured wrong, 321-333; 
another green journalist, 334- 
335; experience in telegraph- 
ing after twenty-six years, 336- 
338; the electric-belt yoimg 
woman, 338-339; an extermi- 
nator suggested for Australian 
rabbits, 338; the faro-gam- 
bler's request for X-ray appa- 
ratus, 339; the proposed 
electrical novel, with G. P. 
Lathrop, 34^-343; false story 
of forgetting his wedding-day, 
344-345; tale of invention of 
incandescent lamp to be re- 
venged on gas companies, 345- 
346; proportional parts of in- 
spiration and perspiration that 
go to make genius, 347; great 



EdiBon, T. A. — Cantimed 

man's Uste in phonographic 
music not the popular, 347. 

Edison, Mrs. T. A., vii, 17, 18, 979, 
975, 387-289; making a photo- 
graph of, 316. 

Edison, town of, Z7»-X7z; labor 
difficulty at, 300-301. 

Edison Electric Light Company 
formed, 94. 

Edison Illuminating Company, New 
York, 115. 

Edison Medal, the, 954-357. 

Edison Patent Shirt, the, 189-190. 

Edison Tower, the, 19-13. 

"Edison's hands," nickname of 
Charles Bachelor, 107. 

Edward VII., King, Edison's adml- 
ntixm for, 339-333. 

Eiffel, M., 975. 

Eiffel Tower dinner, 975. 

Electricity, generation of, direct 
from coal, 349-350. 

Electric light, the incandescent, 
94 ff. ; interest in, in America 
and abroad, 99-100, 109-1x0; 
Edison's specifications for pat- 
ent for, Z10-X19; vast litiga- 
tion over, Z99; i^ort to show 
use of , in thirteenth century, 
199-X93; mighty proportions 
in growth of, X94-X95; number 
of patents covering, z86. 

Electric pen, the, x8o-x8x. 

Electrocution, Edison's slight con- 
nection with, 903; experiments 
with animals at Menlo Park 
laboratoxy, 903-906; use of 
alternating current in, 904; 
methods used in Kemmler's 
case, 9XO-9ZX; executions since 
Kemmler's, 91Z-919; Edison's 
views on, 9x9. 

Electrolier, the first, 19 z, Z79. 

Electro-motographic receiver, the, 

Electro-motograph principle, 76-77. 
Electro-motograph, the, z86. 
Electroetotic telephone, the, 75. 
Engines, procuring of, for electric 

lighting, z 15-1x8. 
England, views in, on Edison's ex- 

periments with electric light, 
98-xoo; last country in gen- 
eral adoption of electricity, 199; 
first public exhibition of phono- 
graph in, X53-ZS6; Edison's 
jokes on war machines taken 
seriously in, Z94-X96; Edison's 
visit to, 977-978; newsps^er 
men of, 996-997. 

Etheroscope, the, x86. 

Evening star and eledzic Ught story, 


Experiments in electrocution, 904- 

Experts, tdephone, 86-87. 
Explosives, experiments^ with 198- 

"Faraday" anecdote, 89-83. 

Farmer, Moses G., 94. 

Figaro, diimer given Edison by, 
973; stony about Edison once 
published in, 973. 

Filament, word coined by Edison, 
86; the search for a perfect, 
for incandescent dectric light, 
95-96, Z05-Z06. 

Fish, F. P., quoted, 85-86; tele- 
phone facts given l^, 89^-93. 

Flammarion, a favorite of Eidison's, 

Force, Martin, 939. 

Forests, telephones used in, 9Z-93. 

Foster, Secretaiy, letter by, 985. 

France, views in, regarding Edison's 
war marhinrs, Z96-Z98; Edi- 
son in, 979-976. 

Fruit-preserver, the, z86. 

Fulton, foreman at Orange labora- 
tory, 938-939. 

Fuse wire, inventkm of, 1x8-1x9. 

Gaboriau, Edison'i fondnen to» 

Galvanometer, "dead beat,** z86. 
Galvanometer bufidii^ at Orange 

laboratory, 995-997. 
General Electric Company, 346. 



Genius, Edison's definition of, 347. 

Germany, the phonograph in, 147- 

Gladstone and the phonograph, 
«S3, 155-156. 

Glenmont, Edison's residence, 17- 
18, 379-288. 

Gounod, M., at Ei£FeL Tower din- 
ner, 875. 

Gout, disoovery of drug used in 
cure of, 191. 

<* Grasshopper tdegraph," the, x8a- 

Gray, Elisha, 73. 
Green, Dr. NoiTin, 65-66. 
Griffin, Stockton L., 339. 

Handwriting, Edison's, 51-59, 53. 
Harmonic multiplex telegraph, the, 

Haryaid University, Phonographic 

Archives at, 150. 
Heidelbeig, Edison at, 276-377. 
"Hdlol" origin and use of expres- 
sion, in telephoning, 85-86. 
Hoey, John, 276. 
Hood, Thomas, believed to have 

predicted tdephone, 143-144. 
Horse, electrocution of, 205. 
Hotel, the first to be lighted by 

dectridty, 12 1. 
Hotel Astor banquet (1905), 259- 

Hughes, Charles T., 239. 
Hughes, D. E., 82-83. 
Huron Institute, 3, 4. 
Hydrography, invention connected 

with, 184, x86. 

Incandescent lamp. See Electric 

Indianapolis, Edison a telegraph 

operator in, 45-47. 
Inertia telephone, the, 75. 
Ingelow, Jean, prediction of the 

phonograjdi by, 144. 
InsuU, Samud, 239. 

I nt erv i e ws , newspaper, 188-189, 296. 

See Newspapers. 
Inventing, Edison's opinion of art 

of, 349. 
Inventions and patent laws, 236. 
Inventors vs. discoverer s , 177-178. 
"lolanthe" the first play in which 

electric lighting was employed^ 


Italy, Edison visits, 277. 

Japan, bamboo from, 96, 952. 
JeaneUe, the, lighted by Edison's 

system, z2o. 
Jehl, Francis, 239. 
Johnson, Edward H., 8x» 940. 

Kelvin, Lord, 82, 256. 

KrmmW case, 206 ff.; Edison as 
a witness in, 207-209; com- 
putation by proxy in connec- 
tion with, 237-238. 

Kennelly, Arthur E., 238. 

Kemer, Marion H., 305-306. 

Keyes, Dr. E. L., loi. 

Kinetoscope, invention of, 165; 
finding suitable films for, z66; 
photographs for, 166-169; ^*^' 
ing battle pictures for, 221. 

Knapp, Alexander, 52. 

Kruaei, John, Z15, 137, 239; modd 
of phonograph by, 137-139. 

Laboratory, Edison's first, on train 
on Grand IVunk Ry., 16; 
sudden end of, 26-27; ^ 
Boston, 53; in New York, 
63; dMcription of the Orange, 
22Z-248; Edison's private, in 
Llewellyn Park home, 227; 
men who have worked vrith 
Edison in his laboratories, 
339-941; the Menlo Park, 
revisited, 261-262 ; present 
state of the Menlo Park, 964- 



Lathrop, Geargt Paisons, 343- 

Law department of Orange labora- 
tory, a34-a35- 

Law Gold Indicator, the, 62-^3. 

lecture, Edison's first (Boston), 
5ft-6o; at Saratoga, on loud- 1 
speaking telephone, 77-81; in 
New York (1879), on experi- 
ments with platinum wire, 

Lefferts, General Marshall, 64. 

Legion of Honor degrees conferred 
on Edison, 285-287. 

Leo XIII., Pope, photographed 
for kinetoscope, 167-168. 

Library, in the Orange laboratory, 
222; at Llewellyn Park resi- 
dence, 280-282. 

Li Hung Chang and Edison, 330- 

Llewellyn Park, Edison's residence 
at, 221, 279-288. 

Logue. W. S., 306. 

Xx>ndon, news in, of Edison's in- 
vention of incandescent light, 
99-zoo; Edison's visit to, 
277-278, 296-297. 

Loud-speaking telephone, 76-81. 

Lowry, Grovemor P., 94, 100, 250; 
letter of, regarding Edison, 

Luhr, Charles W., 229-230. 

Lumbermen, telephones for, 91-93. 


Macdonald, Dr. Carlos F., 203. 
MacGowan, Frank, 241. 
Mackenzie, J. U., 38-39, 44. 
Magnetic bridge, the, 186. 
Magnetic Dinner, the, 259-260. 
Magnetic telephone, the, 75. 
Maisonville, Barney, 15-17, 26. 
Maisonville, Captain Oliver, 15. 
Marconi, 182, 337. 
Maxim, Hiram, at Menlo Park, 


Medals, Edison's collection of, 

Megaphone, invention of, 183-184. 

Memphis, Edison a telegraph opera- 
tor in, 50-52. 

Menlo Park, Edison locates at, 71- 
72; illumination with incan- 
descent lamps at, 112-1x3; 
New York aldermen at, Z13, 
1x8-1x9; experiments in elec- 
trocution at, 203-206; a din- 
ner to Edison at, 260-263; 
description of present ap- 
pearance of, 263-266; memo- 
ries of Edison at, 265; e£Fect 
on, of removal of laboratoiy, 

Mercuzy telephone, the, 75. 

Microphone, the, x86. 

Milan, O., birthplace of Edison, z-5. 

Miller, Lewis, Edison's father- 
in-law, 288. 

Millet, Frank D., use of phono- 
graph by, 163. 

Milliken, G. F., 53. 

Mimeograph, invention of, x8x-x82. 

Ministers, story of the troublesome, 
200-20 X. 

Monkeys, speech of, and phono- 
graph. XS9. 

Moore, William H., 96, 108. 

Motay, Tessic du, X30. 

Motograph, the, 178. 

Motograph receiver, the, x86. 

Mt. Qemens raihoad station, note- 
worthy incidents at, 17, 27, 

Moving pictures. See Kinetoscope. 
Musical transmitter, the, 75. 


Newark, Edison's factory at, 66, 71. 

"New Genius of Light, The," 223. 

Newspaper, Edison's publication 
of, when a train-boy, 17-26. 

Newspapers, Edison and the, 87-89, 
187-X89; Edison a student of, 
3x9; Edison's zemarks on, 

Newspaper reporters, x87-t9o, X92- 
X94, 20X-202, 268r-26)9, 296, 
309-312, 320-321; experiences 
with unscientific, 309, 324-325. 

New York, Edison's first experi- 
ences in, 6x-66; central sta- 
tion in, XX4-X20. 



New York Edison BlumlnaHng 

Company, 115. 
New York Herald building first to 

adopt incandescent lighting, 

Nickel steel the coming metal, 


Nitro-glycerine, dangerous char- 
acter of, Z99. 

Notion books, 24^353. 

Ocean, telephoning across, impos- 
sible, S4-85; wireless the 
telegraphy of the, 337. 

Odoroscope, the, iS4f 185. 

Oil, Edison's suggested use of, in 
vessels, 334-336. 

Old age, a preventive of, 190-191. 

Orange, the laboratory at, aai- 

Orchestra at German court and 
the phonograph, 149-150. 

Ore-milling machinery, number of 
patents on, 186. 

Ore separator, the magnetic, 169- 

Ott, Fred, 167, aaS. 

Ott, John F., a3a, 333, 340, 315. 

Paris Exposition (1889), Edison 
exhibition at, 67, 178^179, 
367, 370-373; statue of "New 
Genius of Light," at, bought 
by Edison, 333; an impostor 
impersonates Edison at, 367- 
970; Edison's visit to, 373- 
376; Legion of Honor degrees 
conferred on Edison, 385-386. 

Pasteur on Edison and himself, 3x7. 

Patent, specifications of, for incan- 
descent hght, IZO-XI3. 

Patents, Edison's views concern- 
ing, Z33, 336; on the phono- 
graph, 138^x39; great number 
of, in America and in foreign 
countries, X76; laige number 
for one invention, z86; on 
stonge batteiy, 3x3; applica- 

tions for, in coimection with 
the various Edison interests, 

Paul Pry, Edison's second paper, 

Pauncefote, Sir Julian, letter by, 

Peanut trick, 30-31. 

Pen, the electric, z8o-x8z; inven- 
tion of a pneumatic, x8x. 

Phonogram, Edison's first letter in 
form of a, 153-154; Ghul- 
stone's, 156. 

Phonograms, Emperor William's, 
X50; of famous men in collec- 
tion at Llewellyn Park, X56. 

Phonograph, invention <^, 134; 
Edison's account of discovery, 
X3S-X37; Krusd's model of, 
X37-X39; tinfoil discarded for 
stearin as recorder, 140-X4X;. 
a forecast of its usefulness by 
Edison, X4X-143; attempted 
combination of telephone and, 
143-X43; early predictions of, 
143-145; in Germany, X47- 
151; humorous and other ex- 
periments with, 15X-X53; in 
England, Z53-X56; records of 
famous men, X56; in Thibet 
and Russia, x 57-159; study 
of monkey and of cat language 
by, X 59- 162; the feeble- voiced 
coster and the, x 63-163 ; artists' 
use of, X63; large number of 
patents covering, 186; con- 
struction and improvement of, 
at Orange laboratory, 333-334. 

Phonograph box, made in one opera- 
tion, 333. 

Phonograph Experimental Depart- 
ment, Orange laboratory, 333- 


Phonograi^c Archives, X50. 

Phonographic Temple, Paris Ex- 
position, 373. 

Phonograph records, 1S3-X57; Edi- 
son's judgment of, 347; per- 
formances at Orange for, 347- 
348; voices suited for, 348 ; 
Edison will not lend his voice 
for, 348-349- 



**Phonograph's Salutation," the, 

Phonomotor, the, 184. 
Photographs, for kinetoicope, 166- 

169; ol Ediaoo, 313-3x6. 
Photography, Edison's researches 

in, 166. 
Platinum light, Edison's, 98^-99, 

loa; Edison's experiments 

with, 126-133. 
Poe, favorite writer of Edison's, afta. 
Porter, C. H., engine built by, 115- 

Port Huron, Edison family at, ro-i i. 
Portraits of Edison, 292, 323-324. 
Poste, Deputy Attorney-General, 

207 £f. 
Powers, Rer. H. N., "Phonograph's 

Salutation" by, 155. 
Praying wheels supplanted by 

phonographs, 157-158. 
Precision room in Orange labora- 
tory, 233. 
Prise-fight story in connection with 

kinetoscope, 169. 

Quadruplez telegraph, the, 68. 

Randolph, J. F., vii, 223. 
Receiver, dectro-motographic, 75, 

186; the chalk, 178. 
Recorders in phonographs, 140-141. 
Reid, Whitelaw, 276, 286. 
Reis, Philip, 72-73. 
Rheostat, the carbon, 185. 
Ricalton, James, 96, 108. 
Rockwell, Dr. A. D., 203. 
Roosevelt, President,, comes to 

Edison's aid at Patent Office, 

Roys, J. A., 28. 
Ruskin, Edbon's liking for, aS2. 
Russia, the phonograph in, 158- 



San Francisco, attempted oombinar 
tion of telephone and phono- 
graph in, 142-143. 

Saratoga, Edison's lecture at, 77- 

"Scratch," a discoveiy called a, 

Scripture, Dr. Edward, 150- 


Seubd, Philip, 241. 

Sextuplez telegraph, 68, 71. 

Seymour, James, 241. 

Shirt, fake stoiy of the patent, 189- 

Silver Lake laboratory, 313. 

Sims, Gardiner C, engine built by, 

Sims, W. Scot, 192. 

Smith, W. Wiley, 183. 

Snow-melting machine, a supposi- 
titious, 188. 

"Sorcery and Magic," quotation 
from, Z22-123. 

Sprague, Frank, 240-241. 

Stanley, Mr. and Mrs. H. M., at 
Orange, 156-157. 

Steel, Dreyfus' experiment in melt- 
ing, 228; nickel, the coining 
metal, 336-337- 

Stephenson, George, compliments 
young Edison on the WeMy 
Heraid, 26. 

Stevenson, Conductor Alexander, 

Stewartsville, N.J., Edison's works 
at, 171-174. 

Stieringer, Luther, descriptive cata- 
logue of Edison's inventions by, 
67, 179; quoted, 76-77, 119- 
lao; sketch of career of, 179- 
180; in the Orange laboratory, 


Stock-room in Orange laboratory, 

Storage battery, Edison's work over 
the, 213; hard tests of, 214- 
215; cobalt discovoed to be 
best for making condenser, 215; 
Edison's statement on use 0^ 
in vehicles, 216-2x7; descriih 
tion of the perfected, 2x7-4x8; 
story of development of the 
perfected, 2x8-220. 

Switchboards, description ol tde- 
phone, 90-i^i. 



Tasimeter, the, i84~i85- 

Tatum, Dr. Edward, 903. 

Tdepbone, eariy prophecies of, 
72; certain narrow escapes 
from inventing, 72-73; Bdl's 
and Gra/s inventions of, 73- 
74; Edison's attention aroused 
and carbon transmitter in- 
vented, 74; Edison's inven- 
tions of various kinds of, 75; 
the loud-speaking, 76-81; the 
first practical, at Centennial 
Exhibition, 8x; first recorded 
message over, 8a; early form 
of, among Catuquinary Ind- 
ians* 83-84; impracticable 
for. telephoning across the sea, 
84-85; facts respecting the, 
as it is to-day, 89-93; failure, 
to date, of combination of 
the phonograph and, 142-143 ; 
number of patents covering, 186. 

Telephone experts, tests for, 86-87. 

Telephonograph, tiie, z86. 
' Tennessee, cobalt from, 9x5, 916. 

Tenn3r8on, phonograph reccml by, 

Tesla, Nikola, in the Orange 
laboratory, 238-239. 

Theatre, the first, lighted by elec^ 
tridty, 190-121. 

Thibet, the phonograph in, 157- 

Thomson, Sir William, 82, 956. 

Ticker, Edison's improvement on, 

Times, London, notices young 
Edison's WeMy Herald, 96. 

Torpedo-boat, invention of a, 199. 

Torpedo-boats, Edison's views on, 

Trains, telegraphing from moving, 

Transmitter, carbon-button, 74, 81 ; 
musical, 75. 

TtoUey-car, remains of the first, 

Tyndall, Professor, on the sub- 
division of the electric light. 

Undeiground railway, London, Edi- 
son suggests electricity for, 

Upton, Francis R., isi, 126; an 
assistant in the Orange labo- 
ratory, 939. 

Uses of the phonograph, 141-Z4S, 

Vacuimi pumps, z86. 

Vaa, J. H., 939. 

Vehicles, use of storage battery in 

electric, 9x6-917. 
Verne, works of, read by Edison, 

Vessels, suggested use of ofl in, 

Vibration, location of, in telephone, 

Visitors' Book, Orange laboratory, 


Vocal engine, 184. 

Voices suited for phonograph rec- 
ords, 348. 

Voltaic pile telephone, the, 75. 

Vote-recording machine, 53-54* 


Waldorf-Astoria banquet (1904), 


Walker, Albert H., 85. 

WaUick, John F., 45-47- 

Wangemann, A.T.E.,vii; with the 
phonograph in Germany, 147- 
150; assistant of Edison's 
at Orange, 933-934. 

Ward, Dr. Leslie, loi. 

Ward-Leonard, H., 941. 

War machines, an interview on, 
and its results, i99-x98. 

Waste connected with coal con- 
sumption, 350. 

Water telephone, the, 75. 

Weber, August, 941. 

Weekly Herald, Edison's paper 
when a boy, 17 ff.; copy <tf, 
preierved at Glenmont, 17-X8, 
S83; specimen extracts from. 



1&-26; b oomplimeDted by 
George Stephenson and favor- 
ably noticed by London Trmes, 
a6; eviction of, from train, by 
Conductor Stevenaon, 27 ; pul>- 
lication of, at home and discon- 
tinuance, 99. 

William III., Emperor, and the 
phonograph, 147-151. 

Wireless telegraphy, z8a, 337. 

Wizard of Menlo Park, Edison 
called, 71-73, 87, 147. 

Worry, Edbon's Wews on, 301, 390. 

Wright, J. Hood, residence of, first to 
be Ughted by electricity, zsz. 

X-ray machine, story of, in 
nection with McKinley's i 
aination, 339-330; a card- 
sharper's request for, 339. 

X-ray zoom in Orange laboratory, 

X-rays, death of C. T. Dally from 
efifects of, 33Z-a33. 

ZoStrope, kinetosoope suggested to 
Edison by, Z65. 








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